Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Vacation) have teamed up with screenwriter Mark Perez (Herbie: Fully Loaded) to deliver Game Night -- a fun, if not particularly believable, comedy that exceeds initial expectations.
Max (Jason Bateman of Arrested Development) and Annie (Rachel McAdams of Sherlock Holmes) are a couple whose lives revolve around games -- so much so that they first met at a bar trivia night. Having settled into a suburban life, they are now ready to start a family, but not at the expense of their game nights. When Max's overachieving brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler of Argo) proposes that he host a game night that promises to be as spectacular as everything else he does, everyone but a disgruntled Max readily agrees. As the evening progresses, however, the lines between what's real and what's a part of the game repeatedly blur.
The concept is fun one, but in order to get fully involved in the plot a great deal of suspension of disbelief is required. If the viewer begins to think too deeply about the plausibility or plot holes in this story, the tale quickly unravels. Still, Game Night is a very entertaining entry in this subgenre of comedy. One specific chase scene should have been graced with Queen music like that which opens and closes the film, as it brings to mind a few minutes of the 1980 movie Flash Gordon.
The acting in Game Night is solid, and everyone fits his or her role well. But, as with most comedies of this stature, there aren't any performances that really stand out. The one possible exception is Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights), fresh off his small role in Hostiles, as lonely next-door neighbor Gary. His character is reminiscent of Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, only not quite as needy...or so he initially seems.
Virtually everything in this film, from the settings to the direction, from the music to the costumes, can be described as "sufficient." Few aspects stand out as spectacular, but nothing comes across as out of place, either. The wide shots of cars and neighborhoods are a singular moment of inspiration: They very obviously represent pieces on a game board.
Game Night will not please everyone, and will certainly be a disappointment for those looking for more cerebral comedy. Yet the film is surprisingly entertaining, especially if you enjoy movies such as The 'Burbs and Spies Like Us.