When executed properly, I don’t think there is anything better than a black comedy.
“Game Night” follows a group of friends (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) who get involved in a possible kidnapping mystery during their weekly game night get together. Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Wright also star as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein direct.
I have enjoyed every project that Daley and Goldstein have done, granted to varying degrees. I love “Horrible Bosses” and, despite its critical backlash, I liked the unflinching mean spirit of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Their directorial debut, the “Vacation” reboot, has a decent amount of chuckles — many from Chris Hemsworth — and they also had a hand in the Frankenstein script of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” They didn’t write this film; that credit goes to Mark Perez — although the duo apparently did an uncredited rewrite — but their trademark dark comedy touch is on it. Thanks to a talented cast, this is a fun film that works.
The names on the poster of this film are incredible and Daley and Goldstein get A-games out of them all. I adore Bateman, and his trademark deadpan shines here yet again and partners well with Academy Award-nominee McAdams’ simple charm. McAdams made a name for herself with “Mean Girls,” but actually doesn’t do too many comedies, so here’s hoping this opens up the demand for her to star in more.
Morris has some great impersonations and reaction shots — he’s basically playing his “New Girl” character — and there are several cameos I won’t spoil that add a layer of mystery and fun to the film.
The absolute scene-stealer is Jesse Plemons, who plays a socially inept neighbor. Absolutely crushing his toe-to-toe deadpan matchups with Bateman and using dictionary-level vocabulary, Plemons is so wonderfully awkward and dark that a lot of the time the audience didn’t know if and when to laugh because the uncomfortable pauses he creates are so masterful. Really, I enjoyed every performance here, and have a big crush on Jason Bateman Rachel McAdams, but Plemons is the hands-down best part of this film, and it’s no coincidence that he is featured in its best scenes.
The whole selling point of the film is the “what is real, what is a game” aspect, but that really is just all it is: a selling point. There are a few twists along the way, but nothing you haven’t seen before and probably done better, and the film does lag a bit toward the end of the second act, even though it only runs 100 minutes.
“Game Night” has gross-out gags, deadpan and mean-spirited deprecation, all of which are right in my comedy wheelhouse, so this was always going to be my slice of pie. I do think that it has enough broad humor for audiences who just want a fun time at the movies, though, and with a cast like this it would be hard to go wrong.
Critic’s grade: A–.