Competition gets unsafe in 'Game Night'

Competition gets unsafe in 'Game Night'”

What saves Game Night from joining the dust bin of bad comedies (to which Daley and Goldstein have already contributed 2015's truly awful Vacation re-boot) is an absurdist streak that subverts our expectations. From the first frame, you know the kind of ride you're in for, so you just brace yourself not to squirt your soda out your nose.

Oh, but don't worry, because this and any other problems these couples might be having - each clumsily bestowed by screenwriter Mark Perez - are all neatly sewn up by the laborious end credits. Max and Brooks have always been competitive, and Max has never been able to get the upper hand.

Game Night concerns a group of friends who meet regularly for an evening of board games and charades. Oh, and the winning couple gets the keys to Brooks' mint-condition Corvette Stingray.

Game Night applies pattern-recognition-as-ultimate-goal to the point that it's nearly a fractal.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams' murder-mystery party goes horrifyingly off the rails in "Game Night".

You'll find yourself laughing, then laughing at yourself and others for what you laughed at. The victor will get that cherry red Stingray.

A common complaint about movies today is that all the best moments are in the trailers, leaving little room for the movie itself to surprise an audience or offer anything fresh.

The reality of the situation becomes clear soon enough, and the six players set out to rescue Brooks, whose trouble with organized crime is what led to this whole ordeal and leads to the plot of the film getting so big it nearly derails.

Good movie comedies are in short supply these days, making Game Night more fun than it deserves to be. It's not that it is bad, per se. The script luckily has some witty humor that Bateman, McAdams and the rest of the cast deliver expertly.

The chief offender is Billy Magnussen, who has been in a lot of movies you've seen, but not for very long. "The director is really the only person on the set that doesn't have a job, if you really think about it".

Bateman and McAdams bolster the proceedings with their respective comic talents and a playful chemistry highlighted in a hilarious opening montage that summarizes their relationship.

"Game Night" is also rated R, but it's not a hard-R, as the sleaze is traded in for relatable couples-night hijinks - think "Cards Against Humanity" chuckles. Gary is a cop who lives with a tiny white dog and, for the most part, hangs out alone waiting to be invited back into the group. "I don't know if that was in the script, but that was fantastic".

In taking the role, the 39-year-old McAdams adds it to a properly eclectic body of work, notably Mean Girls and The Notebook (2004), the political thriller State of Play and The Time Traveler's Wife (2009), and the HBO series True Detective and the stunning Spotlight (2015), which earned her an Oscar nomination. However, a combination of some nifty directing, winsome acting, and some genuine laughs make Game Night as entertaining a film as one with such limited goals can get.

But there are a few nuggets in there that tell you Game Night nearly had a chance to be really amusing.

That's not a complaint, because Bateman's familiar presence unlocks the film in an interesting way; it seems to become an extension of his publicly perceived sensibility.

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are two of the most successful comedy scribes working right now: Their Horrible Bosses films (2011 and 2014) and the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) have cumulatively earned more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) at the global box office.

The movie features some stiff competition on its opening weekend in the UAE, with the Oscar-tipped Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and I, Tonya (reviewed left) among the films opening on the same day.

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