Saturday, March 3, 2018

Daley/Goldstein/Perez's GAME NIGHT: smart, fast, witty, laugh-out-loud Hollywood comedy

TrustMovies has not laughed this much or this consistently throughout a mainstream comedy in a very long time. GAME NIGHT, written by Mark Perez and co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (shown below, with Daley on the left), is such fast, smart and clever fun that the only reason it will not be a blockbuster hit is that it's just too fast, smart and clever for our current dumbed-down audiences that seem to prefer those Hangover guys or Bad Mom gals.

The directors and writer have concocted a simply delightful mix of oddball characters, laughs, thrills and surprises that just keep coming and coming. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that you never get sated, because so much of this is so witty and genuinely clever. Comedies most often tend to be hit and miss affairs, but if enough of the humor is on-target, the film will pass muster. Praise be, Game Night is almost entirely hit and hit. The humor is one with the surprise and thrills, and there are plenty of all three.

The film's premise is a group of friends -- two couples and their single friend (the very funny Billy Magnussen) who always has a new pretty-girl on his arm -- all of whom love to play games and are extremely competitive. The lead couple and the film's main protagonists are played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams (above), and both are, as expected, first-rate. Bateman's glamorous brother (Kyle Chandler, below) is even more competitive, bringing to the plot a twist that sets everything in motion.

Once that plot kicks in (almost immediately), the movie moves so fast that you'll be panting to keep abreast of its twists and turns. The hook here is that you (as well as the characters) can never be sure when an event is part of the game or instead real and therefore maybe life-threatening.

Fortunately the supporting cast is filled with smart and funny actors who juice up the proceedings quite merrily. The sweetly goofy Magnussen (above, left) and curtly acid-tongued Sharon Horgan (above, right, of that great Amazon series, Catastrophe) make a fine pairing, as do the other game night couple, Kylie Bunbury (below, left) and Lamorne Morris (below, right), who unveil their own what-celebrity-did-you-sleep-with? problem as the evening continues.

Best of all, perhaps is that terrifically versatile actor (for starters, compare his work in Other People, The Post, American Made and the USS Callister episode of Black Mirror's fourth season), Jesse Plemons, below, who creates here one of his most indelible and oddly adorable characters as the cop-next-door.

And that's hardly all. No less than Danny HustonMichael C. Hall and an uncredited Jeffrey Wright pop up in smaller but significant roles. Aside from this crack cast, though, what makes the movie work best is its extraordinarily smart script, in which situations, characters, humor and thrills keep bubbling up and bouncing over each other with consummate agility and ease. "Is it as good as Game Night?" will likely be the new touchstone question asked by intelligent audiences from last week onward.

Arriving one week ago via Warner Brothers and marketed with all the usual non-flair this crass company has for anything that proves a bit different or a cut above, the movie is now playing all around the country and may still be in a theater near you in this, its second week of wide release. Click here to find out.

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