Year Released: 2018
Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons,Kyle Chandler
(R, 100 min.)
Genre: Comedy, Mystery and Suspense
“Tonight we’re taking game night up a notch. We do not a board and we do not need pieces.” Brooks
The two leads keep us enthralled with the action, thrills, and their very zany nerd love. Bateman and McAdams have great chemistry and comedy chops, and they are at times laugh-out-loud funny.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, whose weekly couples game night gets kicked up a notch when Max's charismatic brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So when Brooks gets kidnapped, it's all part of the game--right?
The great trailer shows a small sample of the night’s high jinx and omits some of the raunchier humor that mars the first third of the film. It’s just a taste of the bathroom humor and gratuitous vulgarity spewed at us regularly in the summer, but when you have a script and cast that are fillet mignon, why ruin it with greasy French fries?
Much of the fun comes from the couple, who are still very much in love, their “meet cute” moment at the local bar’s game night transitioning to the very cozy one they now host at home.
Only their newly divorced neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), a police officer who seems to don his uniform even at home, is no longer welcome. It was his better half, now gone, that they loved. He was only tolerated because of her, and now they have to hide their weekly game night from him by having their invited guests park a few blocks away and enter through the back door.
But the cop is smarter than he may look and senses something afoot in the three bags of chips almost spilling out of their grocery bag. In fact, Plemons just about steals the show with his spot on socially awkward pauses and cringe worthy conversation. He reminds us all of the nosey neighbor who so creeps us out that we only empty the trash under cover of darkness.
But it the arrival of Brooks (Kyle Chandler) who ups the game for everyone. Brooks is the suave, successful sibling who always has always overshadowed Max . And of course, he makes his entrance in a tomato red corvette that roars its arrival like an alpha lion about to make mincemeat out of an inferior pride. Nothing so mundane as charades or trivial pursuit; his murder mystery party seems as cool as Brooks himself.
Of course, part of the fun is that we are part of the game, too, never knowing what is real and what is not. So, when two armed thugs greet Brooks with a gut punch and body blows, the gamers sit quietly by and munch nonchalantly on the cheese, and since we are in on the joke, we knowingly smile right along with them.
But, of course, nothing is as it seems – the fake thugs are the real thing, and as the night goes on, each “reality” is revealed to be false, like an unshuffling a trick deck of cards. Reversal upon reversal upon reversal until we are as dizzy as Max and Annie themselves.
A current spin makes one scene especially funny. Annie is trying to remove a bullet from Max’s arm, using her smart phone for directions, only it is set to go black periodically, and she has to bring it back by touching it with her nose, since both hands are busy extracting the bullet. When her tapping sound is bone and not the bullet, both she and Max lose it, retching and gagging like everyone in the pie eating contest from Stand by Me. Not quite that graphic, but you get the idea.
Obviously, the plot is over the top. The film itself is a game, but the pace is so fast and the leads so excellent, we play along without pausing to query the latest absurdity. And it’s not just the circumstances that fold on us; it’s the characters themselves who also are not what they seem.
It’s all a bit of fluff and fun, not quite as good as 2010’s Date Night, which let its two stars shine more or less unassisted by a supporting cast. Some of the fellow gamers here are a bit stereotypical and muddle things up. Bateman, McAdams and Plemons are so good, they could have carried the film alone without the mostly predictable side plots.
If the whole film had that light touch you glimpse in the trailer, resisting the crude humor that removes it from family friendly, we could have had a real game changer. Instead the deck is stacked with a few too many jokers instead of the aces that star.
Now that Spring Break is close, maybe you and yours will have your own Game Night, hopefully without the murder and mayhem of our film.
And this night can be PG-13 if not a very safe G rated family affair. So why not serve something the kiddos can make themselves, such as these very chic Domino Cookies, easy and delicious.
Your kids will have a great time helping to decorate these easy and delicious cookies. All you need is a roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough and a bag of semisweet chocolate morsels. The hardest part about making this recipe is trying not to sneak bits of dough or morsels here and there!
1 (18-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie bar dough
Semisweet chocolate morsels
Roll half of dough to a 10- x 6-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 12 rectangles, and place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Score each rectangle in the center crosswise with a knife. Gently press semisweet chocolate morsels, points down, into dough, forming domino dots. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake at 325° for 10 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Slightly cool on baking sheets; remove to wire racks and cool completely.