Game Night is anchored by a strong performance from Rachel McAdams and Justin Bateman, plus a cleverly constructed narrative. It certainly doesn’t hurt when your supporting cast has the likes of Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons who like McAdams and Bateman are fearless in their respective parts. Game Night doesn’t seek to dazzle anyone with its brilliance or highlight any Oscar caliber performance. Simply put, this film wants to make the audience laugh like hell, and they achieve that in spades.
Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) are an ultra-competitive couple who are dealing with issues involving fertility. In the course of a doctor visit, it becomes that the problem they have stems from Bateman’s character feeling inadequate around his brother (Chandler). Max’s brother seems to take great pleasure in taking advantage of his issues in any way possible. Chandler’s character declares to Max and Annie’s circle friends that he wants them to come over and take part in the “ultimate” game night (a staged abduction). Little do they realize that he actually gets abducted and their night just got a whole lot more interesting.
Writer Mark Perez strikes the perfect balance between low brow humor and “R” rated comedic hijinks while making sure the narrative isn’t compromised. If anything, Game Night could have even been better had Perez crafted more off-color comedic moments for McAdams and Bateman. In many ways, this duo steals the spotlight from the rest of the cast. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein seemed mindful of that and didn’t allow the actors to dominate the screen. Daley and Goldstein also appeared to have a keen awareness of pacing and as a result, not one moment in the film seemed to lag. If anything, this film has left me curious as to how they tackle DC’s Flashpoint film.
Barry Peterson’s cinematography was intriguing. Peterson made ample use of the film’s focus on games and used board games as a way to make transitions from one situation to another. The sequence involving the cast attempting to rescue Bateman’s brother by stealing an item for his captors was pure genius. Using one continuous shot as the item was passed from person to person allowed the action to never seem stagnant during an essential moment in the movie.
While Max and Annie indeed are hilarious during the film, but it was Plemmons portrayal of the socially repressed cop that surprises audiences the most. At the beginning of the film, his character is treated as more of a throwaway. However, as the film moves forward, it becomes apparent that he’s going to play a vital role.
Anyone deciding to go check out Game Night has to be really honest with themselves before they venture out to the theater. Do you just want to have a good time? If the answer is yes, then Game Night indeed should be at the top of your wishlist.