The directorial duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have collaborated on many different projects and with various behind-the-camera talent over the past fifteen years, and Game Night is easily the best of theirs that I’ve seen. Combining Mark Perez’ hilarious writing with an exceptionally strong cast of hilarious actors, Game Night is comedy gold.
The story centers on Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams), a competitive, but not obnoxiously so, married couple that host a weekly game night at their home with friends. When Max’s older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes into town and invites the crew to a mystery-themed game night at his house, things quickly get dangerous for all involved when a real kidnapping takes place. That premise creates the opportunity for confusion between game and reality for the “players,” and Game Night makes the most of it to get some pretty clever laughs.
However, the funniest moments have very little to do with the physical danger the characters are in, and more with the banter between them. The three main couples split up at different points in the movie, and the conversations they have are some of the most entertaining in a comedy I’ve seen in a long while. The chemistry between the pairs is rock solid, and that allows them to elevate the already witty writing to something that’s truly memorable. Whether it’s Max and Annie being super focused on winning, Sarah (Sharon Horgan) being surprised again and again by Max’s (Billy Magnussen) unfathomable stupidity and shallowness, or Kevin (Lamorne Morris) badgering his wife Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) about a certain secret, I was laughing multiple times through each scene.
The best of the couples had to be Max and Sarah though. A lot of comedies feature characters that are so dumb that I don’t feel like they could really exist, and only a few of those characters, like Max, are so hilarious that I can overlook it. Sharon’s reactions when discovering new depths to Max’s ignorance reminded me of Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper with Zach Galifianakis in the first Hangover, but it managed to feel like its own thing instead of an imitation.
And holy crap, Jesse Plemons! He had me laughing so much I was almost in tears! I’d love to explain his role further, but I don’t think words can do him justice and I want to avoid going into spoilers.
With all said and done, Game Night is exactly what I had been hoping for since seeing the first trailer: A new comedic classic that I’ll be sure to watch again and again. The stars plays off of each other brilliantly, which brings out the best out of what was already hilarious writing. It’s only February, but I’m confident that Game Night will end up being one of the funniest movies this year.