MOVIE REVIEW: Game Night plays around, only barely wins
GAME NIGHT (MA15+)
Rating: three stars (3 out of 5)
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Danny Huston.
Getting a blast from the pastime
Meet Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams).
Not only are they a relatively newlywed couple. Max and Annie are hardcore gamers.
You won't be finding a console, joystick or anything remotely wi-fi-friendly in their well-appointed suburban home.
No, these two are keeping it strictly old-school : Max and Annie are board gamers.
Once a week, selected family and friends gather at their residence for a full evening of anything that might involve a pair of dice, a pile of cards and a dinky little figurine being moved this way or that.
So begins Game Night, an erratic American comedy that burdens itself with the tough task of being edgy and endearing at the same time.
When it gets this tricky combo right, the movie can land a laugh as big as the best of them. Which of course means that when Game Night bungles the blend, there is nothing but the sound of crickets chirping in the distance.
Thankfully, the hits outweigh the misses by a margin that ultimately works in the movie's favour. Particularly if you just want something to gawk and guffaw at, without having to deposit anything of worth into your memory banks.
It is a deviation from Max and Annie's tried-and-tested hosting arrangements that gets the funny stuff going in Game Night after a noticeably slow start.
Max's cashed-up older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) wants to try his hand at hosting a game night, and is hellbent on impressing his guests with something radically different.
So Brooks splashes out on what is called an "interactive murder mystery experience." Actors portraying mobsters will burst into his house and randomly abduct someone, holding them in a secret location across town.
The other players must use their wits and resources to find their missing friend before the night is through.
So what could possibly go wrong here? Aside from, like, everything?
Largely because all of Game Night's best jokes thrive on the advantage of stealth - there are some genuinely surreal zingers that spring up out of nowhere - we shouldn't be going into detail about what goes down before Brooks' game is up.
All that does matter is that the movie doesn't outstay its slender welcome, not overstretch its thin material. Helping highly in this regard is Bateman and McAdams, who both know how to sell the silly stuff without getting too stupid in their own right.
Game Night opens in cinemas today.