Likable cast pulls boring film together

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as Max and Annie in Game Night.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as Max and Annie in Game Night. PHOTO: WARNER BROS



120 minutes/Opens today/2.5 stars

The story: Married couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) host weekly game nights in their house, where they play board games and charades with their friends. When Max's brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) returns to town to host his own murder mystery game night, things descend into chaos and suddenly become dangerous for all the players involved.

During every board game session, there comes a time when the fun peaks and then everything goes downhill from there. The players lose interest and everyone starts counting the minutes until it is game over.

That happens about halfway through this film, when the set-up of the story already feels worked to death, but is then dragged out some more.

It is the same fate that plagues all the raunchy comedy films helmed by director duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who also wrote Horrible Bosses (2011) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013).

What saves these films from becoming completely grating is the casting of a bunch of very likable comedians.

Burt Wonderstone had starred Steve Carell, while Horrible Bosses had also featured Game Night's Bateman, an actor who has carved an entire career out of being Hollywood's favourite middle-class everyman.

Here, the always bubbly and wide-eyed McAdams is also thrown into the mix and her chemistry with Bateman is apparent. The two are often hilarious together, playing off each other so naturally in some scenes it feels like they could have been improvised.

The pair's eternal optimism and believably competitive, even sinister, streak to win every game they play pulls the whole film together, never mind that things quickly spiral out of control.

Their game night is, after all, far from a regular evening of Monopoly at your neighbour's.

A simple murder mystery game quickly leads to a kidnapping, a heist to break into a safe and even the discovery of an underground fight club.

Things get so ridiculous after awhile that you forget what game they were playing.

At least they looked like they had some fun along the way.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Likable cast pulls boring film together'. Subscribe