Miss Scarlett at the Airport with the Jet Engine.

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“Game Night” is an American comedy film starring Jason Bateman (“Horrible Bosses”, “Central Intelligence“) as Max and Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight“, “Doctor Strange“) as Annie: two hyper-competitive professionals who invite other couples around to their house for a weekly night of charades and board games. The regulars are long-term couple Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and  Kylie Bunbury) and complete buffoon Ryan (Billy Magnussen, “The Big Short“) and his revolving door of generally vacant girlfriends. Estranged from the group, after his divorce, is the creepy police officer Gary (Jesse Plemons, “The Post“, “American Made“) who lives next door.

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Auditions for the next Spiderman movie were not going well.

But Max is not content (affecting the mobility of his fishes!) as he has a severe inferiority complex about his enormously successful and cocky older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler, “Manchester by the Sea“) who beats him at EVERYTHING. When Brooks barges into their game night things get heated and after he organises the next game night as “something different” things take a sharp left into The Twilight Zone.

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Bateman, McAdams and Chandler, with game night about to go in an odd direction.

As befits the quality of most modern American comedy films, its all complete nonsense of course. But actually, this is quite good nonsense. The script by Mark Perez (his first movie script in 12 years!) while following a fairly predictable path early in the film is littered with some good one-liners and funny scenes (a bullet-removal is a high-spot) and includes a memorable twist in the final real that I didn’t see coming.

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Ryan and Sarah (Billy Magnussen and Sharon Horgan) about to get egged on. (There is a certain lack of logic in the action that follows).

Much of this is powered by the chemistry between Bateman and McAdams.  McAdams in particular should do more comedy, as she is very adept at it. Playing the one bright spark in a parade of vacuousness,  English comedienne Sharon Horgan also adds a butt to Magnussen’s one-tone joke very effectively. The surprising comedy player though is Jesse Plemons who I thought was just uncomfortably hilarious.

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Jesse Plemons and his very white hairy friend.

It is normally unusual to find special effects in a film like this, but here the team (headed up by Dean Tyrrell) should be congratulated for some very subtle but effective effects.  Most of the long shots in the film of the neighbourhood/streets etc. are of models which only fade to live action as you zoom in.  In the opening drone-fly-over of Max and Annie driving home I thought all the housing looked model-like but as we zoomed into them arriving home I thought I must have imagined in.  Only in the subsequent scenes did I realise I was right after all!  But it’s so very subtle. I suspect many of the audience were similarly fooled (and many who’ve seen the film and are reading this will be still going “what??”)!  There’s a kind of explanation for the randomness of these effects during the (very entertaining) end-titles.

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Bullet removal with squeaky toy gag… very funny.

It’s unusual for me to laugh at a comedy so much, but this one I really did. Every comedy film is allowed a little latitude to get the odd strand wrong, and this one is no exception (I didn’t think the spat between Kevin and Michelle really worked)… so it’s not perfect, but novice directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who’s only previous film project was 2015’s clearly missable “Vacation”) have pulled off a really entertaining watch here. 

Fad Rating: FFFF.

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