Game Night is the smart way to do dumb comedy

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It’s so great when movies are made out of love. When the only motivation a filmmaker has to make a film is the paycheque at the end of it all, the audience can tell. No one spent decades trying to make Geostorm as perfect as it could possibly be. No one saw anything in Darkest Hour other than potential Oscar winnings. No one got teary at the wrap party for Downsizing.

Game Night isn’t that kind of film. Everyone involved in this movie really wanted to be here; they saw something in it that they thought was great, and they wanted to be a part of bringing it to life. The result is one of the most entertaining and hilarious films in years. It’s full of incredible characters, brought to life by actors who are giving it their finest work. The plot is silly, but engaging and fun, with just the right amount of self-awareness. Even the more technical aspects of the filmmaking have been handled with the utmost care. The cinematography is stylish and impressive in ways that are rare for this kind of comedy.

The story follows Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), a married couple who love to play board games and quizzes with their friends. One night, Max’s super successful brother (Kyle Chandler) rolls back into town, and insists on upping the ante of game night. He invites the couple and their friends to his house for a role-playing mystery game in which he gets kidnapped and whoever finds him first is the winner. Here’s the catch, though: actual kidnappers turn up, but of course, everyone thinks it’s part of the act.

That’s all in the first act. It gets wilder from there, and the comedy never slows down. Every member of the group is a delight; Max and Annie have a great chemistry together, and McAdams has a real flair for comedy that you don’t get to see very often. Billy Magnussen steals the show in a lot of scenes as the completely clueless Ryan. This level of sheer idiocy is incredibly difficult to get right, but he’s quite possibly the most charming character in the whole film, and the schtick never feels like overkill (everyone else is pretty dumb as well). His date for the evening (Sharon Horgan) very quickly tires of him, and she has plenty of sass to fire at him; every scene of the two of them together is great. And that’s to say nothing of Jesse Plemons’ Gary, the funniest ‘neighbour you try your best to avoid’ to ever grace the cinema screen.

Game Night isn’t going to change your life. It doesn’t have any biting political commentary to share with you; it doesn’t revolutionize cinema; it probably won’t even encourage you to have a game night of your own. But it will put a big, stupid grin on your face for about two hours. How can you argue with that?

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