Game Night (2018) Movie Review

By: Jenna Zine (Two Beers) –

Max and Annie are a married couple whose “meet cute” started at Trivia Night in college and has evolved into a competitive weekly game night with dear friends. Their lives are set, until Max’s high-rolling brother, Brooks, comes to town and their party gets kicked up a notch in ways they could never imagine.

[Spoiler-free review!]

A Toast

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are the couple everyone wants to be – best friends that are still deeply in love, and who’ve been perfectly in sync since meeting in college. Their married life, though tame, is far from boring – they’ve got a laser focus on fun and enjoy a healthy social life with their close-knit group of friends. Other than a few blips – such as constant run-ins with their awkward neighbor, Officer Gary (Fargo’s Jesse Plemons), and their more serious problem of conceiving – all is near perfect in their lives. It isn’t until Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks (Friday Night Light’s Kyle Chandler), visits that things start to come apart at the seams. Are Max and Annie who they seem to be, or is their suburban existence a total lie? It all comes to a head in one wild night…

We are the bestest friends anyone could ever have!

The film comes out swinging – the opening credits are eye-catching and the dialogue is super engaging. (Favorite line: “Where did you find her? At a Ted Talk?” “No; Chipotle.”) No surprise, given that the project is directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein – the team behind Horrible Bosses (1 & 2), The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, National Lampoon’s Vacation (2015), and more. (The two have also been tapped for Flashpoint from Warner Bros. DC Films.) In short, the audience is in good hands. The cherry is the chemistry of stellar casting, including the aforementioned Bateman (a producer on the film), McAdams, Plemons, and Chandler, along with Max and Annie’s friend group, made up of fellow couple Kevin & Michelle (New Girl’s Lamorne Morris & Kylie Bunbury), dimwitted bestie Ryan (breakout star Billy Magnussen), and Ryan’s date for the evening, Sarah (Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan). These are people you absolutely believe would give up their evenings for board games in order to be in the company of one another – they are having that much fun.

Hand over the games, bro, and no one will get hurt. Well, maybe.

Beer Two

The problem comes when the action starts. It kicks off with the complicated relationship between rule-follower Max and his uber-successful brother. (One of Max’s friends hilariously likens their sibling rivalry to that of “Cain and Abel. Or the Baldwin brothers.”) Brooks swoops into town intent on shaking things up, starting with his brother’s sacred game night. His intentions are good – he wants to give the group the thrill of a lifetime with a fancy murder mystery event – but the execution turns out to be terrible when a staged kidnapping becomes all too real. Because of the setup it takes a while for the friends to understand that danger is truly afoot. And it’s in this interim that the movie shines at the peak of its cleverness. Now if only it stayed there.

Perhaps we should try this again…

The beginning of the film is so amusing that it’s hard to swallow when the second half veers into endless action sequences that become less plausible the longer the runtime goes. All movies require a certain suspension of disbelief – that’s half the fun of getting swept up in two hours of entertainment. But Game Night asks the viewer to buy that these people would live through the night in scenarios that not even a Navy Seal would be likely to survive. That, and the tone – so lighthearted in the beginning – gets weighed down by the nonstop violence. Play that first half of the plot on a loop and it would’ve been a slam dunk. Add the criminal rampage with a few scenes that go on a bit longer than they should’ve and you’ve got two beers on your hands. Not that you won’t have a blast downing those suds!

Verdict

Game Night is still a unique delight; you’ll surely enjoy most of the time spent with this stellar crew. Heck, you might even be inspired to start an event of your own – just be sure to keep the doors locked!

Game Night (2018) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Brooks outshines Max.

Take a Drink: every time Max and Annie argue about Max’s sperm motility.

Take a Drink: every time there’s a joke about Fight Club.

Do a Shot: for the Fabergé egg.

Do a Shot: if you believe someone can poop out paper and have it still be intact.

About Jenna Zine

Jenna Zine is a writer, unashamed Bachelor franchise live-tweeter (@JennaZine1) and recapper, lapsed drummer, and occasional standup comic. She's probably somewhere complaining about her bangs right now. Find more at www.jennazine.com

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