Game Night (2018)
February 28, 2018 2:09 PM - Subscribe

A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery.

AV Club's A A Dowd: Dropping meek suburban boobs into life-and-death ordeals has become one of Hollywood’s go-to comedic formulas . . .In this case, said cast member is Jason Bateman, offering his umpteenth variation on the put-upon everyman. His character, Max, loves games of all varieties and is so obsessed with winning that he seems to have married the equally competitive Annie (Rachel McAdams) partially because of their compatibility as charades partners. The two are trying, and so far failing, to have a baby. When the doctor suggests it could be a confidence problem—this is, after all, a studio comedy, which these days are almost all self-actualization lessons in disguise—Annie becomes convinced that it has to do with Max’s lifelong inability to ever beat his older brother at anything. So when the confident, successful, condescending Brooks (a well-cast Kyle Chandler) pops back into town and suggests moving the couple’s weekly game night to his sprawling bachelor pad, Max and Annie become determined to best him. What they don’t know is what Brooks has in mind: an immersive, high-stakes mystery experience… one that seems to begin with his suspiciously brutal and realistic kidnapping at gunpoint.

Slate's Sam Adams:
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) don’t like to lose. The opening shots of Game Night show the future couple meeting competitive at a pub trivia night; as their teams go head-to-head, they’re drawn to each other by their mutual drive toward victory, even in arenas where it’s not especially important. As a married couple, their weekly game nights have become a semi-sacred ritual, and though their take-no-prisoners approach seems to have cost them a few friendships along the way—when an opposing twosome complains that they’re violating the rules of Risk by forming an alliance, they observe that the strategy was “good enough for Hitler”—they’ve settled into a routine with a regular group of friends, including a husband and wife played by Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury and a muscly dope played by Billy Magnussen, along with whatever equally pretty, equally dim woman he’s plucked off Instagram that week . . .The back and forth between McAdams and Bateman is what makes Game Night sing (which is not to slight Horgan's dry wit or Magnussen's elegant idiocy or Morris' magnificent Denzel Washington impression).

Richard Roper: You tell me you’re casting Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as a married suburban couple regardless of genre, and I’m in. Whether Bateman is in top-of-the-line vehicles such as “The Gift” or the Netflix series “Ozark,” or making the most of second-tier material like “Office Christmas Party,” he always finds a way to make his performances interesting.

As for McAdams: Other than being one of the most endearing and charming and natural and beautiful actors around, she’s doesn’t have much going for her.

Bateman’s Max and McAdams’ Annie fell in love over their shared passion for board games, video games, computer games, you name it. Comfortably married for years (but without children, a huge sticking point in the relationship), they still host a weekly Game Night — and it still REALLY matters to Max and Annie if they win at Charades or Jenga or the Game of Life.

Glen Weldon: Neither Game Night's premise nor, by extension, its trailer, promises terribly much: Deeply competitive married couple Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) host a weekly gaming gathering with friends, only to have it literally hijacked by Max's rich, overachieving and much cooler brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Masked toughs, who may or may not be part of an elaborate game, brutally kidnap Brooks while the assembled guests look on, eagerly sampling the cheese board. From there, the night proceeds to go violently awry.

If that's all Game Night was, it'd fall dutifully in line with countless other comedies in which buttoned-up suburbanites take a walk on the wild side that, by the third reel, breaks out into a flailing, headlong sprint. Among these: 2016's Office Christmas Party, and — especially — 2011's Horrible Bosses, with which Game Night shares considerable creative DNA (Bateman starred in both films, but Bosses was co-written by one of Game Night's two directors, John Francis Daley).

Where those previous films felt compelled to lunge for edginess (read: sneering raunch) as chaos dutifully descended on characters they didn't like very much – and weren't particularly interested in getting audiences to like, either — Game Night takes care to locate our sympathies with Bateman, and McAdams, and its cast of charming ringers. . . Game Night will likely get devoured this week at the box office, between Black Panther's momentous cultural moment and Natalie Portman's turn as a gun-toting, mutant-hunting super-scientist in Annihilation, but it doesn't deserve to disappear. It's neither groundbreaking nor career-making, but it manages to be smart even when it's being very dumb, and it's filled with the kind of surprise cameo appearances that trigger dumb grins of recognition and appreciation. That's still gotta count for something.

posted by Carillon (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Stay put for ALL the credits....poor Gary.
posted by brujita at 2:45 PM on February 28, 2018

Was there something after the red twine?
posted by Carillon at 3:20 PM on February 28, 2018

Gary's ex
posted by brujita at 3:27 PM on February 28, 2018

We enjoyed this movie a lot, but nothing is gained by paying first-run big-screen prices... wait for it to hit Netflix and it will be a fun pizza night at home.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:14 PM on March 1, 2018

A brilliant, stylish, tightly-woven comedy of the kind that Hollywood doesn't seem to make any more. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams give outstanding performances. I think it's worth seeing on the big screen just to support movies that are as smart as they are funny. It landed at #2 at the box office largely because of a heavy buzz that it was really, really good. I was a bit skeptical, but after seeing it, I think it earned the hype.
posted by Mr. Fig at 7:00 AM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

In another era this would have been a second-rater at best but the state of comedy in American motion pictures is so dire these days that this seemed a lot more solid than it really was. Which is not to say that there's anything much wrong with it, and it's enjoyable enough, but look what we're comparing it against -- the previews that showed before it were for movies like "an attractive but not stick-figure-thin woman gets hit on the head and is no longer crippled by body image issues" and "suburban parents go to ludicrous lengths to prevent their daughters from having sex on prom night."

Anyway.. I don't regret seeing this and kind of liked it but can't imagine, in ten years' time, ever saying to someone "You never saw 'Game Night'? Awww, man, you gotta fix that ASAP.."

on edit: I do think that Jesse Plemons was excellently cast as Gary - awesomely awkward. And also that the film was wise not to overdo it with him..
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:03 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Ok, I left after the red twine chunk of the credits. What did I miss vis-a-vis Gary's ex, Debbie?

Annoying plot hole: both fake and real bad guys show up on the bridge; fake bad guys (with Brooks) awaiting our heroes and real bad guys just after Gary's reveal. We know Gary sent the heroes to the bridge from the red twine map and his possession of the voice changer, so how did the real bad guys know to go there?

Some day I want to see Jesse Plemmons play Matt Damon's damaged younger brother.
posted by carmicha at 7:30 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


She meets Not Denzel at a gas station and there's a strong mutual attraction.

I say poor Gary because he's still by himself at the end, even though the group is now including him.
posted by brujita at 9:18 AM on March 8, 2018

Nerd of the North isn't kidding, those trailers were fucking dire. This was a fun movie though. I particularly enjoyed the glass table gag.
posted by graventy at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I appreciated that this was a comedy that wasn't devoted to making all of its characters look like awful people, and didn't make me feel bad about laughing (or mostly not laughing) at its jokes. Also, unlike 70% of current Hollywood comedies, I could tell that this one was actually WRITTEN ahead of time, and not just a loose plot skeleton with spaces for the actors to improvise their lines.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:29 AM on March 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

re: trailers
After the 3rd one, my friend leaned over and said, "Who exactly are they targeting??" Like, ass beer? I mean, I was at American Pie opening night, and I won't be seeing Chicken Silhouette Blockers.

So, I wasn't looking for movie references going in, but it became obvious really quick that they were toying with them. I caught these references:

Honey Bunny’s Pulp fiction line
Sever Denzel quotes (which ones though?)
CEO of Cyberdyne Systems
Eyes Wide Fight Club

I'm sure there were plot, visual, and other references too. What other ones did I miss?
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2018

Finally got around to seeing this, still in the theaters although I don't know for how much longer. I really liked it, and I don't tend to like a lot of modern-day movie comedies. (Along with the regrettable trailers mentioned earlier in the thread, we now have "Melissa McCarthy plays a mom going to college with her daughter," apparently written by people who are completely unaware that older people going to college is actually a semi-common thing, enough that there's the term "non-traditional students" for them, and they tend to be there just for the education and not for the whole "college experience.")

But as for Game Night, I laughed harder at the scene where Annie is trying to take the bullet out of Max's arm than I have at anything in a movie theater in a very long time.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:13 PM on March 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

"You're gonna crash the car into the plane like Liam Neeson in Taken 3?"

"He did that in Taken 3, huh?"
posted by box at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2023

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