Game Night



            Sometimes you just want some lighthearted entertainment, and you don't really care if it holds together or makes sense.  You don't want a “message movie” and you don't want anything too heavy.  Just a few laughs-- as long as it's not too silly or too raunchy.  Well, “Game Night” might be just the one you're looking for.

            Jason Bateman, in his usual role as the everyman, or the one the audience identifies with the most, plays Max.  He has a cute wife, Annie (Rachel McAdams), and as a couple they enjoy a small circle of other couple friends.  They play “Game Night” together.  Lots of charades.  Lots of lively interaction, but Max and Annie are also very competitive.  Though they want children, it hasn't happened for them yet, and their physician suggests there might be some stress in Max's life?  Well, other than his naturally competitive nature, that would involve his sibling rivalry with his brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who seems to be this tremendously successful businessman who usually finds a way to make Max feel inferior.

            But we wouldn't be doing this movie justice if we talked seriously about the plot.  Because any serious mood is quickly dispelled by many different forms of humor.  We have awkward humor, regarding the weird guy next door, or another couple's sudden argument, when they were supposed to be the ones so much in love.  Jokes about one of the group being a serial first-dater.  They even manage some chase scenes that are semi-serious, but then we revert to pratfalls, puns, and preening.  But the humor really gets strange when Brooks suggests a murder mystery game, and some real bad guys show up, except the partygoers all think it's part of the deal.  The light levity juxtaposes with the fight scene, just like it does later on, when they crash some rich people's party and it turns out they're having a “Fight Club” downstairs, betting on bare-knuckle brawlers.  And all the while our friends are tossing around a purloined Faberge egg while running from the bad guys?

            Yes, interposed with the slapstick is the sibling rivalry resolution, and even a bit of old-fashioned romance.  Like any “Game Night,” it's probably best enjoyed with a group of friends ready to just relax and let loose a little bit.  Like in a stand-up routine, not all the jokes hit home.  But enough of them do to walk away chuckling.  And who doesn't need that every once in a while?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association