By: Kevin Jordan
Can I play?
Have you ever wanted to participate in one of those murder mystery nights with a group of people? Yeah, me neither. I tried it one time years ago and it was one of the most awkward memories I have. In order for it to be even remotely fun, everyone involved has to be 100% into it and also be an extrovert and that does not describe my experience. Otherwise, it’s like to trying to conduct a bible study with people who believe everything in the bible is literal and agnostic biblical historians who bet on the Patriots to beat the Eagles. Now that murder mystery nights are not a thing any more, Game Night introduces a gaming concept sure to be the next big thing after we’ve exhausted every Escape Room in the city – hiring a company to conduct a kidnapping of the game night host and offering a prize to whomever tracks down the host first. This is a bulletproof idea that definitely does not have the potential to involve law enforcement.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are an ultra-competitive married couple who live for hosting game night. They invite the usual crew, married couple Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury, respectively), and their friend Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his flavor-of-the-week/date, Sarah (Sharon Horgan). Everything is going swell until Max’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), returns to town and shows up Max at the latest game night. At the end of the night, Max offers to host the next game night, promising to up the ante, as it were. Thus we learn about Brooks contracting the kidnapping game and offering up his corvette as the prize. The game starts out as planned, but is interrupted by two men breaking into Brooks’ house, fighting with Brooks for a couple minutes, and dragging him off while the three couples look on. They erroneously believe the break-in is all part of the game and the movie kicks into its main plot – the couples start playing the game, but eventually learn the men who kidnapped Brooks were not part of Brooks’ game.
You probably noticed I did not give a spoiler warning and that is because I want you to enjoy this movie as much as I did when you go see it (and you should definitely go see it). The film is one part mystery and one part adventure, all drizzled in comedy sauce. If I were to tell you any more about the plot, it would spoil much of what I found so entertaining in the movie, namely that I could not guess what was going to happen and being shocked on numerous occasions at what did happen. This is the kind of movie that makes sitting through crap like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword worth it.
What I can tell you about is how much I enjoyed the characters, especially McAdams and Jesse Plemons. Plemons plays police officer (and next-door neighbor of Max and Annie) Gary Kingsbury. Gary is super creepy and stopped getting invited to game night after his wife divorced him. Plemons’ delivery is so awkward and unsettling that he would fit right in as host of a murder mystery game night, except you would believe Gary is an actual murderer. One scene in particular (when the couples go to his house for help) punctuates how likely it is that Gary is secretly keeping a woman in a well in his basement. Make sure to listen to the music playing in the background and look at the things decorating his house.
But, McAdams is the one who carries this film to its comedic heights. If she has played a true comedic role (in contrast to the kind of role she did for Wedding Crashers or Mean Girls), I’ve missed them and that makes me sad. McAdams is brilliant as Annie, manages to out-funny Jason Bateman (no small feat), and nearly had me in tears a couple of times. Like with Chris Hemsworth in the latest Thor, McAdams shows how funny she can be given the chance. I will definitely be checking out some of her past comedies to see if I missed out (not to mention how, like Hemsworth, easy she is on the eyes).
The best part of this movie though? Somebody hired a continuity person/crew that didn’t take a night off. With the exception of one small subplot, everything introduced in this film is wrapped up when the credits roll. Each couple and person is given a sub plot/issue to work through and all of them are given a chance to breathe and play out throughout the film. The best movies have this figured out, fleshing out their characters while moving the plot along without having to crush the momentum of the film to do it. There are also great technical continuities on display, one of which is a continuous long take of a scene featuring our couples trying to evade capture inside a mansion (another of which didn’t occur to me until all of the reveals and explained what I initially took to be a standard action movie cliche). Add it all up and Game Night is a movie where everyone ends up a winner. Now, who is up for another Escape Room?
Rating: Do not ask for any money back and remember at the next game night, it’s just a game.