Somewhere in an office in LA there is a large stack of formula comedy scripts, each one bearing a not so well thought out title and a post it note asking: is Jason Bateman free? Game night is a surprisingly stylish addition to Bateman's very marketable oeuvre. The film does an amazing job at experimenting with comedy not always seen and succeeding.
Bateman plays the highly competitive (almost annoyingly so) Max who, in a charming opening montage finds his equally competitive soulmate in Rachel McAdams' Annie. He asks her to marry him via a game of charades. They seem to be a perfect pairing, and they are a team to be reckoned with at all the regular game nights they host at their home with their friends. When Max's brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) reappears in town, the couple's happiness takes a turn for the worst. Sibling rivalry is almost an understatement for Max and Brooks, Max having never beaten his brother in a game ever. The icing on the cake for Max is Annie being convinced that her failure to get pregnant lies in Max being too stressed about his brother to conceive.
It is not long before Brooks has taken over in hosting his own game night at his very lavish home, but not without adding a twist in the form of a surprise murder mystery party. Working with a script from writers Mark Perez, directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have a plot twist of their own in play, and it's here where the film begins its trek down the murkier path of thrillers.
What's impressive about Game Night is that it shouldn't succeed in the way it does because of the expected adherence to the comic beats found in most films. Billy Magnussen is here as the dim friend (Ryan), there's the creepy neighbor in the form of Jesse Plemons and the awkward pitter patter of cringe worthy dialogue. The result remains a hit and miss affair, but it leans more for the former. For one thing, with the help of a extremely stellar cast, Perez's script is very funny. There is a bit lacking character development, but the cast does a good time with the comedic timing and delivery which almost masks the lack of development. It is the direction of Daley and Goldstein that stands this one apart from it's 'just okay' field. Rather than simply filming the script, they add a style with moments that add the visual sensation that the action the audience is watching is actually happening on a board game.
For all its faults, Game night makes an admirable stab at mixing comedy and thriller that has enough going for it that sees the viewers through time. I would say that you should avoid spoilers as they tend to give away the best jokes.