Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, two competitive people who meet at a trivia night, bond over obscure “Teletubbies” facts, fall in love and get married. They’re so into games they even play Just Dance at the wedding reception.
Cut to a couple of years later. They are comfortably tucked away in the suburbs and hosting weekly game nights with friends, the dimwitted Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and long time couple Kevin and Sarah (Lamorne Morris and Hamilton, Ontario-born Kylie Bunbury). They used to invite neighbours Debbie and Gary (Jesse Plemons), but since Debbie moved out they take great pains to ensure that Gary, a creepy cop, doesn’t find out about their get-togethers.
On a personal level they’re trying to have a baby, but it isn’t going well. Their doctor (Camille Chen) thinks stress is making it impossible for them to conceive. The source? Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), a good looking, venture capitalist who loves to flaunt his wealth. “He’s like the Mark Wahlberg to Max’s Donnie,” says Ryan.
When Brooks rolls into town, driving Max’s dream car, a vintage Stingray, he throws a special game night at his new, rented mansion. With no Risk, Scrabble or Monopoly in sight, the regular gamers gather for a murder mystery party. The winner gets the Stingray. “This will be a game night to remember,” Brooks says.
When the murder mystery turns into a real kidnapping the game players are sucked into a world of intrigue as they have to solve the “game.“ Seems there’s more to Brooks than meets the eye. “I can’t believe your brother has been lying to us this whole time,” guffaws Ryan. “He’s even cooler than I thought.”
This isn’t a Hitchcock movie. There’s no real mystery in “Game Night,” just some twists and turns and engaging performances from a cast game to have fun. It’s more about spending time with the characters on their wild night out.
Much of the humour comes from the casual back-and-forth between Bateman and McAdams. They interact like an old married couple, not people in a bad situation. Bateman is a natural at this kind of deadpan comedy and McAdams, who generally features in dramas, keeps pace. Their chemistry is one of the reasons this slight comedy works as well as it does.
Magnussen, who plays a likable dim bulb, and Morris and Bunbury who work their way through a mystery of their own making aid the above-the-title stars. The biggest surprise and certainly the film’s oddest performance belongs to Plemons. Best known for his work on “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo,” he mixes deadpan delivery with a thousand-yard-stare that is as unnerving as it is funny.
“Game Night” isn’t slap your knee funny but it is an amiable enough comedy that makes up in charm what it lacks in procedural thrills.