Film: Game Night

The surprisingly delightful Game Night (2018) throws a number of ideas and influences into its hopper. A fairly conventional comedy set-up introduces us to competitive gaming couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) Davis, who hold a regular game night at their suburban home. Max’s competitive streak may have been fueled by a toxic sibling rivalry with his brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), whose return to town may through a wrinkle into the weekly meet-up. Upping the ante, Brooks invites Max, Annie, and their group to his house to play a kidnapping-based RPG; the prize is Max’s dream car. When the mock kidnapping goes down, however, it’s surprisingly realistic, and as the contestants start to play, the lines between the game and reality hopelessly begin to blur.

Game Night is a slick modern action/comedy hybrid that feels very much of its time, even as it calls back to filmic ancestors. In particular, David Fincher’s high-stakes thriller The Game, with its line-blurring strategy of confusing game mechanics with actual peril, comes to mind. But it’s also reminiscent of older films like Cannonball Run and Scavenger Hunt, which similarly involved teams of contestants racing the clock—and each other—to win a prize in increasingly ridiculous antics. Game Night gleefully hybridizes these precursors, populating the fast-paced plot with a first-rate comedic cast, led by Bateman, Chandler, and McAdams and bolstered by Kylie Bunbury, Michael C. Hall, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, and Chelsea Peretti. Jesse Plemons deserves a special call-out for his skillful turn as dead-eyed, deadpan Gary, the creepy cop next door who is desperate to befriend the group. It’s a clever, diverting comedy caper, laugh-out-loud funny and well worth watching.

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