A memorable comedy-thriller. At this time of year, who would have thought?
Directors: John Francis Daley (Vacation), Jonathan Goldstein (Horrible Bosses)
Screenplay: Mark Perez (Accepted)
Cast: Jason Bateman (Office Christmas Party), Rachel McAdams (Red Eye)
Runtime: 1 hr 40 min
by John DeSando
“Where’d you find her? TED Talk?”
If you’re game for a hilarious night at the movies, then see the black comedy Game Night. This romantic thriller is a mix of screwball comedy, Marx Brothers slapstick, and witty repartee you’ll vow to go back for (about the handsomer brother: “He’s like the Mark Wahlberg to Max’s Donnie!”) so you can catch at least half of the brilliant dialogue from the pen of writer Mark Perez.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) is a childless married couple who relax with friends playing highly competitive games like Scrabble and Charades. This night, however, with the return of his charming, successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), the game becomes fraught with sibling rivalry and violence that somehow never eclipses the humor. For the audience, determining what is just a game and what is real is the enjoyable endgame, and not easily solved.
The high-flying chases and quips remind me of Grant and Russell in their screwball days, throwing intellectual barbs while their lives are at stake (about a ditzy blonde guest: “Where’d you find her? TED Talk?”). Although Bateman has cornered the market on the clueless but still sharp middle class professional with the classic slow burn, McAdams is a discovery as a robust bright partner only a little clueless but plenty savvy. Her takeoff on Amanda Plummer with the diner hostages in Pulp Fiction is priceless.
Besides McAdams’ surprise comedic chops, Jesse Plemons as the off- center, next-door cop Gary sheds his Matt Damon lookalike calling card and crafts a memorable role to prove his talent as a comic character. However, he’s just another achiever in an ensemble overloaded with charm.
Now and then a fine film comes in this dead-zone time of year: Game Night is that one, a promise of good films to come long after Oscar has gone to hibernation.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com