I'm not gonna spoil anything outside of anything you've seen in the trailers. I discuss the premise, character portrayals, settings, and whatnot in an effort to explain my opinion on whether or not you should see this film.
I dislike reviewing comedies. It's weird and comedies, almost more than any other genre of film, are subjective. People have different brands of humor, from fart jokes to puns, to double-entendres and sarcastic speak, and practically infinitely more. I'll think something's funny while you'll think something is try hard while someone else will have the joke go over their head. So, I basically only review comedies that I think are really good or really bad, then try to give some of the context without ruining the jokes.
I really liked this film. I've always enjoyed Bateman's deadpan humor and think Rachel McAdams has talents that go beyond romance-focused films. It has a great cast of characters with actors who fill them out as well as a great pace so no joke really feels as though it's overstayed its welcome.
To be clear, this is no groundbreaking film that will awe you for years to come, but honestly I can't name any comedy film that's done that for me.
Our two main characters, Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams respectively) are a married couple, having met and grown in fondness over their love of competitiveness (specifically at a trivia night). Cue relationship montage to where it's established their group of friends where they regularly hold game nights.
On the occasion to which this story takes place, Max's older and more successful brother Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler) offers to hold a game night, promising a significant prize to a kind of staged kidnapping. As with a proper comedy plot, something goes wrong and hijinks ensue.
The plot isn't particuarly innovative even with its twists it provides, but it's solid and doesn't feel overdone. A kidnapping runs almost parallel with a scavenger hunt, leading the cast to various locations that feature flavorful characters. You get characters played by Danny Huston and Michael C. Hall appearing unexpectedly to feature into the plot.
Casting and Performance
As mentioned before, I enjoy Bateman's deadpan delivery while surrounded by a sea of ridiculous elements. Rachel McAdams is hilarious with her repertoire with Bateman and her ability to stand on her own with sarcastic wit and a manic gleefulness.
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Jesse Plemons as Gary (pictured below) is probably the most standout performance following the two leads. Gary isn't just unnervingly creepy but delivers his lines at a fantastic pace in order to leave the viewer with equal parts unease and humor. Kyle Chandler does a good job of being the stereotypical sleezy older brother and most of the rest of the core group are funny and have their own moments to shine.
My favorite coupling might have been Billy Magnussen as Ryan and Sharon Horgan as Sarah. Ryan is dumber than a doornail while Sarah is a fairly adept outsider to the normal group and at a certain point, their relationship in the film is lampshaded very well. On his own, Ryan has a certain unforgettable cocky mind of a child as he bulldozes his way to victory.
The One Scene of Hot Potato
While I'm clearly not going to talk about the specific item and necessary situation for the scene, there is a long cut of people passing an item around while trying to keep it away from no name mooks. It's actually really well done and fantastic considering I'm most familiar with long, single cuts from action films, not comedies. There's not a whole lot to say about it, only that I was very pleasantly surprised by both its inclusion and quality, particuarly in the seamless transition on multiple floors.
There are several times the humor of this film relies on being in-tune with pop culture, most notably in the vein of actors who have played The Hulk. I didn't find it annoying, even in the few instances I didn't catch it, but I've seen a handful of reviews complain about it so that might be a factor for you. For me, the humorous tone was enough for me to catch on even if I didn't exactly have the knowledge to pick up on the joke's intent.
By far the worst issue is profanity with plenty of F-bombs. There is discussion of sexual acts but it's not particuarly graphic or overdone. There's a bit of violence too, including a lengthy scene regarding a gunshot wound, but it's comparably tame. It's an Rated R film but it doesn't really try to push the envelope one way or another and remains comfortably in its rating.
And that's kind of it in a nutshell. It's funny and well acted and overall well done. It's not new or original, nor is it going to be immortalized in some way as a de facto comedic film, but it's good. If you're looking for a fun, easy going time to the movie theater, I can easily recommend it. However if you're mostly indifferent, I'd still recommend checking it out when it becomes rentable.
- A solid, humorous take on a group's game night.
- Bateman and McAdams are fantastic leads with great charisma (McAdams is especially good outside of her romantic focused films)
- Has a great cast that all have their moments to shine (in particular Jesse Plemons and Billy Magnusssen)
- Has an unexpected but wonderfully made single cut of a session of 'Hot Potato'
- Relies a little on pop culture references
- While not originally original or groundbreaking, it's just a solid comedic film that I found very enjoyable