‘Game Night’ keeps viewers guessing

Pranaya Pahwa | Staff Writer

“Game Night” is a lot of fun. It’s a movie which wants to make you laugh without being raunchy or crass. Instead, it’s spectacularly witty, smart, adventurous and full of surprises. Basically, I’m saying you should watch it because “Game Night” is classically strong comedy entertainment and a good night out.

“Game Night” starts with a charming and economical meet cute. Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel “Why Isn’t She in Everything” McAdams) are both ridiculously competitive and good at games. In only a little bit, Max proposes to Annie with a game of charades. A few years later, Max and Annie are hosting weekly game nights at their house.

Ryan (Billy Magnussen) always arrives with an interchangeable dumb blonde. Consequently, he never wins. He wouldn’t win anyway. He isn’t that smart either. Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) are also regulars. I mean, come on, what would game night be without them? They have been together since they were 14 and are a wonderfully charming couple. With their friends, Max and Annie have created an idyllic set up. Their neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons), and Max’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), threaten that order (“Friday Night Lights” reunion!).

Gary is a creepy cop who always wears his uniform. He also carries his dog, Bastion, with him, looking like Dr. Evil. His wife left him, but he still obsesses over her. He used to attend game night, but Max and Annie never really liked him. His wife was the cool one. He wants the company of game night again but doesn’t know how to get it.

Brooks is the anti-Gary. He is smart, smooth and suave. He has a cool car and a big house; and, as Max confirms, he isn’t compensating for anything. I mean, the man even invested in Panera Bread (correctly pronounced St. Louis Bread Company). Brooks is responsible for the Fuji Apple Salad. He swaggers into town ready to host and change game night. This time game night is a kidnapping mystery and anything can happen. That’s when everything goes bonkers. The film blurs the lines between game and reality completely. Unbeknownst to Max, Annie and their squad, Brooks is actually kidnapped. The meat of the film covers their quest to rescue Brooks from his fake or real kidnapping.

If you think, based on my description thus far, you know how “Game Night” proceeds, trust me, you don’t. Whenever the plot veers into familiarity, a twist or two catch you off guard. At the same time, the script never feels manipulative or mean. Even if you know the end, “Game Night” is all about the journey. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein find their humor in situations and characters and tell their jokes cleverly and visually. This movie is the rare comedy without idiots or jerks. The characters are basically normal, and that only makes their absurd predicament more hilarious.

I really have nothing bad to say about “Game Night.” It’s not going to resurrect the dying American comedy or change your life, but it doesn’t try to anyway. The performances are sweet and relatable (Jesse Plemons and Rachel McAdams particularly delight) and Daley and Goldstein keep things visually engaging. Shots with unique focus effects make the streets look like a game board, a long take is really funny and thrilling, and Daley and Goldstein consistently stage their characters humorously.

“Game Night” is laugh out loud excitement with tons of good moments. You will walk out with a warm happy feeling. With “Game Night,” it is all fun and games. That’s a good thing.