Jason Bateman's endless praise for co-star Rachel McAdams

Jason Bateman plays Max in the new film Game Night a dark comedy about a group of friends who meet weekly for boardgames

It's trickier when they are smart, though it's potentially funnier to see a smart person-especially a smug one-be deceived. That's what the 2010 feature Date Night suggested, sending Tina Fey and Steve Carell into the night for some hijinks and mild gunplay.

But "Game Night" always has an ace up its sleeve that pulls you back in.

Chris Van Vliet: "Since the movie is called 'Game Night, ' I want to call these interviews 'Game Day, ' and we're going to cue some cheesy game show music right there".

Though the more action-oriented aspects start to take over in the final act, the movie never loses sight of the characters or forgets that it's a comedy first. Screenplay of the film stays one step ahead of the audience like it happens in a suspense film, which this one is but a comedy needs to put audience in the front seat so they also get the joy of anticipating a laugh rather wait for some element of surprise which may or may not be amusing.

The cast is invested too.

There's something about Jason Bateman's presence in a movie that settles the nerves.


Their life is pleasant, though they've been coping with infertility and Max is semi-dreading an upcoming reunion with his highly competitive brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler). And the first 10 minutes are zippy and charming, presenting the premise - two fiercely competitive board/parlor game aficionados (played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) meet cute, marry and institute a weekly "game night" at their house - in lively, economical fashion. At its center is a couple that loves to play games. Then Brooks is kidnapped for real, for reasons we learn according to screenwriter Mark Perez's steady stream of revelations and reversals.

A little competition is a healthy thing - in a marriage, and in a movie.

"It helps when you've got people that are basically suburbanites like we are, out exposed in the night when they're usually underneath their duvet covers watching Jimmy Kimmel, and we are out there kind of battling people that are risky". Particularly fun is a game of keep-away with a Fabergé egg, the crew tearing around a mansion passing off this stolen MacGuffin as the camera follows at a gleeful, dizzying zip. This comes to a head when the couple hosts a game night for all of their friends. Lamorne Morris, consistently a stealth weapon on The New Girl, has plenty of opportunity to shine as he struggles with a piece of knowledge dropped on him during a drinking game early in the evening. I wish the same for Morris and Bunbury, appealing performers whose plotline here is a lame, repetitive gag about sexual jealousy.

It's a pleasure to see McAdams back in light, zippy mode and her character is as central as Bateman's, the script refusing to suffocate her with the still-persistent nagging, joyless wife role. There's a scene in a biker bar where she gets to cut loose, gun in hand, and it is both adorable and terrifying. "Trains kept going under the bridge and they were those long trains and we had to wait for them and it was just eating up our night", says Goldstein. "Like, maybe being the last one to merge in traffic?" Which I suppose is true of so many nights meant to deliver us from the doldrums of settled life. The six players initially think it's just part of the game, sipping wine and sampling cheese as Brooks desperately tries to fight off his attackers and praising the quality of the "acting".

As the duo responsible for 2017's hugely successful "Spiderman: Homecoming", Daley and co-director Jonathan M. Goldstein are deft with comedic pacing and know how to spin a yarn.

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