Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Put down the board games and go watch “Game Night”

Kylie Bunbury, left, Lamorne Morris, Billy Magnussen and Sharon Horgan join competitive couple Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, at right, for Game Night.

It’s probably safe to say that traditions, no matter how celebrated, can become dull after endless repetition. This is the case for the characters in “Game Night,” a film co-directed by the writers of “Horrible Bosses” (Jonathan Goldstein) and more recently “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (both John Francis Daley and Goldstein). When the subjects of the film decide to shake things up a little bit, it drastically backfires, sending the gang into a frenzied adventure when one of their friends is kidnapped.

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), the game night power couple have been trying and failing to have a baby because of Max’s low sperm count. This brief exposition sets the mood and serves as a crux for the two but is only briefly addressed throughout.

The rest of the ensemble cast is soon introduced before the weekly game night ensues, including their creepy neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), who used to be married to one of their friends but divorced him, the couple Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and Kevin (Lamorne Morris), their friend and shameless womanizer Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his date for the evening Sarah (Sharon Horgan).

As the gang’s game night progresses, Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up (who is explicitly cited as being better looking and more successful). After introductions take place and Brooks beats his hypercompetitive brother at his own game, he tells the gang that they should spice up game night a bit.

Their next game night is at Brooks’ million-dollar home, but he has still omitted an explanation as to what is going to be different. After a brief explanation of the game, the gang realizes the objective is to follow clues locating a member of their group that will be kidnapped by a group of actors pretending to be criminals. Suddenly, a pair of armed men in masks break down the door and take Brooks, with all of his friends none the wiser that this is not part of the game and is in fact a real kidnapping.

The rest of the film is full of twists and turns as the gang breaks up into pairs to try and solve the mystery, with some of them sticking to the fabricated clues left before the incident, and others taking a different approach which puts them on the tails of the actual kidnappers.

The moment when Brooks is kidnapped is integral because it allows the viewers to recognize the absurdity of the situation while this cast of friends are clueless to the consequences of their actions. This is demonstrated later when Annie irresponsibly waves around a loaded handgun believing that it is a prop. This scene also illustrates another commendable aspect of the film, as each respective pair of participants discover in their own way that Brooks was kidnapped by real criminals.

As the plot thickens, the gang is eventually reunited and thrust into deep action as they uncover the true conspiracy at hand. The film manages to strike a comfortable balance between action, comedy and even a little bit of drama that isn’t too overbearing. All of this is packed into a concise 100-minute run time, which is encouraging given that once the film begins to lean a little too much on the side of action, it reels itself back in.

“Game Night” is a great opportunity for the viewer to put down Monopoly or Cards Against Humanity and go to the movie theater on the weekend. There is plenty of fun to be had, and the film never relies too heavily on gimmicks or repetitious jokes. There is plenty of action to keep even the most stone-faced viewer engaged, wonderful joke payoffs and most importantly, a good time with friends.

Grade: B+

bermer@theeagleonline.com


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