Game Night (John Francis Daley/Jonathan Goldstein, 2018) 2½ out of 4 stars.
A completely stupid film about a group of friends whose game night goes horribly wrong (but also, so right), layered on top of an equally dumb tale of sibling rivalry, Game Night somehow succeeds in telling a winning story that is true to its own ridiculous rules of engagement. With a talented cast that includes Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Rachel McAdams (About Time), Kylie Bunbury (Ginny on Fox’s Pitch), Lamorne Morris (Barbershop: The Next Cut), Kyle Chandler (Super 8), Jesse Plemons (American Made) and a very cute Westie, the movie bounces along through its silly plot points, buoyed by the relentless good will of all involved. Though I am a bit ashamed for liking it as much as I do, Game Night is nothing if not a riot, though the violence of some of its action scenes may be a bit much for some (it is R-rated, after all).
Bateman plays Max, married to McAdams’ Annie. In a meet-cute opening montage, we watch the evolution of their relationship from bar-game rivals to spouses to would-be parents seeking help from a fertility doctor. It seems that Max’s sperm lack the requisite motility to impregnate Annie. One suggested reason is stress. From what? It’s never really explained, but that condition is not helped by the imminent arrival of his competitive brother, Brooks. Said sibling usually likes to rub his excess wealth and stock-trading success in Max’s face. Not good for sperm. Roger that.
Meanwhile, Max and Annie, following their marriage, have kept up game nights with a tight-knit group of friends, including Michelle (Bunbury) and Kevin (Morris). They used to invite neighbor Gary (Plemons), as well, but since he’s a bit of creepy sad sack, they’ve left him out following his divorce, as his wife was the one they liked. He’s also a cop, however, with an adorable dog, both of which facts will, of course, play a role later on.
Enter brother Brooks (Chandler), who offers to reinvent game night with a murder-mystery theme. Should be a blast, except that the plan unravels when reality and make-believe mix and mingle in a crazy mess that no one can sort out. So goes the night and so goes the movie, but if one can abandon the need for narrative logic, then the film more than delivers. If not, well, it’s only 100 minutes long. I enjoyed myself, and hope you will, too. I can’t rate it higher than I do, though, because I need to maintain some self respect …