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Thursday, March 1, 2018 12:04 am

Bateman and McAdams make Game Night fun


I don’t think that great comedy teams are consciously made; they’re stumbled upon. Case in point, take a look at Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Game Night, a consistently funny film that embraces its ridiculous nature and runs with it. It’s a movie that has more than its share of twists and turns, but the most pleasant surprise is the chemistry generated by the two leads. Bateman has already established himself as one of our most reliable funny guys, delivering one dry bit of sarcasm after another, but who would have thought that McAdams would be able to go toe-to-toe with him, providing a strong foil who counters his cynicism with a degree of sweet logic that ultimately takes him down a notch or two?

In a clever opening credits sequence we see Max and Annie (Bateman and McAdams) meet at a trivia night and progress through a series of game-related dates until they are married in a ceremony replete with a Dance, Dance Revolution machine. They’re a match made in heaven and their good-natured competitiveness has spilled over into a weekly game night with their closet friends. Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) are middle school sweethearts who have gotten married, while Ryan (Billy Magnussen), not as smart as the others, shows up consistently to show off whatever young bimbo he happens to be dating.
However, the friends’ weekly ritual is disrupted by the sudden inclusion of Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who drops into their lives and insists on hosting the weekly ritual. This investment trader arranges for an acting troupe to stage a fake kidnapping, with those left behind charged with deciphering clues to find out where the victim is taken. Unfortunately, a group of real abductors show up and make off with Brooks, leaving the rest to think that the game is afoot.

There are a series of running gags that continue to produce laughs throughout the film. Kevin tries to determine which celebrity his wife slept with years ago when they were on a break from each other. His guesses become more and more ludicrous but are nothing compared to what the real answer is. Ryan displays a degree of consistent stupidity that’s hard to believe, countered nicely by Sarah (Sharon Horgan), the one smart date he’s ever brought to these gatherings. Meanwhile, Max and Annie’s nonchalant attitude towards their adventure results in one hilarious moment after another. This all cumulates in a sequence where the erstwhile wife tries to take a bullet out of her husband’s arm, the process hampered by them both gagging throughout.

As if this weren’t enough, Daley and Goldstein throw in a ringer in the form of Jesse Plemons as Gary, a tightly wound police officer who lives next door. He used to be a part of game night while married, but since his divorce he’s been persona non grata. The tension he brings to each scene allows his castmates the opportunity to react in a variety of awkward, funny ways that never cease to generate a laugh.

As with most comedies, Game Night has its ups and downs, but in the end, there are more hits than misses. (Of note is a scene in which Bateman attempts to clean a blood-splattered dog, a process that goes from bad to worse to even worse.) However, the takeaway is that Bateman and McAdams are a comedic force to be reckoned with, and the sooner they’re reunited in another film, the better.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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