Game Night shares a lot of DNA with Horrible Bosses – not just in star Jason Bateman, but in directors John Francis Daley (the unexpected MVP of the Freaks and Geeks cast) and Jonathan Goldstein, who cowrote the earlier film. (Game Night itself was penned by Mark Perez, a screenwriter of no renown.) As such, the films are soulmates: dark comedies that ultimately play it too safe.
Game Night is a comic variation on David Fincher's 1997 thriller The Game, in which Michael Douglas is hurled into a whirlpool of danger that may or may not be an elaborate hoax. Here Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a husband and wife who host a weekly game night with two other couples. When Bateman's rich older brother (Kyle Chandler) invites the gang to his swanky house to play a kidnap mystery game, he is suddenly abducted by thugs. Is it real or just a setup? The gang votes setup; the audience isn't so sure.
Perez's script has the requisite twists and turns, but not enough to keep us guessing – or caring. That said, the movie is a breezy diversion for 100 minutes, and there are some good gags. I'm happy to see McAdams, who I adore, doing comedy again. And Jesse Plemons steals the show as the hilariously creepy cop who lives next door. Finally, Daley and Goldstein display flashes of a clever visual sense, even employing tilt-shift-focused overhead shots to make neighborhoods appear like toys.
This movie rates a solid B-minus. There's nothing bad about it, just some missed opportunities. The script could have been smarter. The characters could have been less generic. The comedy could have gone way darker. And there are three highly recognizable actors in roles too big to be cameos, but too small to make adequate use of their talents. You honestly wonder why they agreed to be in the movie.