The premise of Game Night is relatively simple: a group of die-hard gamers (who indulge mostly in board games) enter a real-life ‘game’ of their own where the stakes are life or death. And hey, it’s a comedy!
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, and they are introduced to us in an almost Up-esque montage of two people who meet over common interests, bond, and then host game nights forever. Once the cutesy montage is over, we reach a point in their lives where they are trying to have children, but Max is brutally told by the doctor that his sperm are lazy and tells him that it’s also most likely a by-product of his sibling rivalry with his brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler, whom I discovered in Early Edition which I LOVED). Brooks is constantly living the jet-set life much to the envy of Max, but he returns one day and offers to host the couple’s regular game night at his new swanky digs one day. He hires a company to engage them in a real-life mystery game, but that’s when it all horribly goes wrong. Brooks is taken by real goons and, while the group of six don’t realise it at first, they soon catch on that this is playing for the high stakes, where nothing is really transparent.
So I said group of six. In addition to Max and Annie, we have Billy Magnussen as Ryan (who is a character that’s slightly blank and seemingly superficial) who, to this game night, brings along Sarah (played by Sharon Horgan), who is pretty different from the usual kind of date he has on hand. The final two are married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Added to this is the standout performance of Jesse Plemons as Gary, the next-door neighbour of Max and Annie’s, who is their friend Debbie’s ex-husband as well as a cop.
This is a movie with comedic moments, sarcasm, hilarity, and some brilliant deadpan moments. The chemistry between Bateman and McAdams is pretty good, and both their comedic timing is perfectly in tune with each other. Plemons, as I said earlier, steals the show. His character is devoid of any reactions of personality and his blank face and creepy expressions just add to the fun in the movie. And Chandler is great as a rake!
By creating sub-plots for most of the characters, the writers have cleverly pulled off depth and backstory for them, which is nice. There’s a few cool set pieces in the movie, one involving a dog, and the other involving a fairly absurd chase through a huge mansion. The plot isn’t necessarily straightforward though – there are twists and turns, and by the climax scene, it’s almost like the characters are acknowledging that there have been an almost silly number of ‘gotchas!’ – you’ll see what I mean when you see it.
So yes, the story gets absurd at some points. But what works in this movie is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a game night-themed movie that was presumably set out to entertain audiences, and that’s just what it does.