Monday, March 5, 2018

Game Night Movie Review

Game Night (2018)
Watch the trailer  
Written by:  John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Directed by: Mark Perez
Starring:  Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Danny Huston, Lamorne Morris
Rated: R

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

This is better than I expected with some really funny moments and plenty of plot surprises. The writing provides all of the characters with secondary plot lines that come full circle which also bolsters the comedy. While one liners are prevalent, a few jokes are built throughout the movie for maximum payoff. A lot of jokes rely on pop culture. While this stretches the bounds of realism, it's an enjoyable movie that will land more than a few jokes and will certainly surprise you with the twisting plot.
It depends.

I'll avoid spoiling any of the big plot reveals. We're quickly introduced to two competitive people, Bateman and McAdams, who then get married. We don't really need the scene, but it's attempting to set up a secondary plot about their marriage and future. While the scene and plot line feel tacked on I appreciate the writers are trying to flesh out these characters and provide some emotional underpinning. A number of plot points come full circle which makes this a smarter movie than the genre usually gets. There are a lot of pop culture references, and this is often crude. It could easily be rated PG-13 without losing anything essential. A side note, when they first meet at the bar trivia night, their teams are the Borg and the merkins. The Borg is a Star Trek reference and merkins are a  pubic wig.

Bateman and McAdams as Max and Annie regularly hold game nights, while trying to avoid inviting their neighbor Gary, a policeman played by Jessie Plemons. Plemons does a great job, but he's helped by getting to play such an odd character. Gary is socially inept and has a strange bond with his dog. Max and Annie go as far as to tell their friends to park one street over and sneak in just to avoid Gary.
The plot kicks into gear when Max's brother Brooks flies in. On the surface Brooks is more successful than Max in every respect, which creates a lot of frustration and competitiveness for Max. Brooks, unsatisfied with Max's typical game night promises the group something much better. The group also includes Ryan and Sarah, a mismatched pair on a "not a date." She's older and intelligent, he's not as bright and avoiding any commitment. Throughout the movie Ryan asserts the rich hire the homeless for fight clubs and he's regularly dismissed. Later in the movie during the heist of a Fabergé egg, Ryan gets to see what the rich really do for fun. While this is not a movie that is attempting to mimic reality, the one part that really stretched my believably was the group being chased through the house and throwing the egg back and forth. I just can't believe the accuracy of the throws and the skill in catching them.
Also in the group, are high school sweethearts  Kevin and Michelle that get into an argument during a drinking game when Kevin discovers Michelle slept with a celebrity. The movie stretches that reveal for maximum effect.

I won't spoil the major reveal, but the movie is full of twists, turns, and surprises as the characters try to determine where the game starts and stops. As you'd expect no one realizes at first when the game stops and they've ventured into danger. Brooks had planned a fake kidnapping scenario with a bunch of clues, but everyone gets a lot more than expected.
At one point the group arrives at Gary's house just to take advantage of Gary's access to the criminal data base. This is one of the best gags, spoiled if you've seen the trailer. Max gets blood on the dog, fails at cleaning the dog, only to make it worse, before the dog shakes and splatters blood on Gary's mural. Max, realizing he can't solve the problem, then leaves.

This becomes a bit of an action movie as Max tries to save his brother from what may or may not be kidnappers and a criminal underworld kingpin. By the end, the movie resolves Max and Brooks rivalry and Max and Annie's plans for the future. Despite one crazy game night, they haven't stopped meeting weekly. The final scene serves as a book end to the first scene.

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