It's an idea that seems so obvious you wonder why no one has ever done it before – a riff on David Fincher's cult classic The Game, but y'know, with intentional laughs.
That's Game Night, an enjoyable, high-wire comedy-thriller about a bunch of clueless 30-somethings drawn into a labyrinthine series of twists and turns after the successful brother of the over-competitive Max (Jason Bateman) invites them to his mansion for an especially twisted version of their weekly get-together.
Rather than the standard game of Monopoly or Scrabble, Max's brother (Kyle Chandler) explains that one of the guests will be kidnapped and the rest of the gang will have to solve a mystery to find them. What starts out innocently quickly escalates into something far more intense than any of the party planned for.
The film rolls along swiftly and agreeably, weaving together a cast of MVPs from various small-screen comedies into an enjoyably batty ensemble. Bateman can do a role like this in his sleep (and indeed, these wide-spanning ensemble comedies seem to be his bread and butter following the likes of Office Christmas Party and the Horrible Bosses films).
Rachel McAdams – one of the most under-appreciated actresses around – is, as ever, wonderful in a largely thankless role as his significant other, Annie.
Ultimately, however, the film is essentially stolen away from under the rest of the cast by a hilariously detached turn by Jesse Plemons as a divorcee neighbor with some serious serial killer vibes.
The film itself largely escalates as expected, with a decent amount of entertaining twists and turns and some genuinely guffaw-worthy sequences. It's all good fun, but is elevated throughout by occasional, deft cinematic flourishes.
Game Night is hardly a game-changer but – with the help of a spirited cast and some inspired sequences – is elevated from pedestrian material into a perfect Friday night popcorn movie.
Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Jesse Plemons
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
It's all fun and games in this agreeable comedy.