“Game Night” could be a real winner — if it were just 10 minutes shorter.
But like those rainy-day Monopoly marathons you used to have with your sister, it goes on a little too long. It’s fun in the end, but it takes work to get there.
The action comedy stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as Max and Anne, a childless couple who put all their playfulness into parties built around Scrabble, Pictionary and charades.
They’re nerds with friends.
Then, one night, Max’s super-competitive brother, Brooks, decides to kick it up a notch, inviting them and their pals to his mansion. He’s planned a murder-mystery game with fake gangsters and a staged kidnapping.
Except, it turns out, this game’s for real. And if Max, Anne and their friends don’t rescue Brooks, everyone’s going to lose.
The movie comes from the team behind another Bateman hit, “Horrible Bosses.” Like that comedy, this one depends a lot on its stars’ charm.
Luckily, Bateman and McAdams both have that in spades — even when they’re totally losing, they’re very winning. The script’s willingness to go dark (there’s a twisted cop and lots of blood) keeps things edgy, too.
But half the game is who you play it with, and the rest of the players aren’t as much fun as Max and Anne.
One friend, played by Billy Magnussen, never becomes anything more than Dumb Guy. His date, played by Sharon Horgan, gets even less to do. She’s Woman Who Can’t Believe She’s Out With Dumb Guy.
And the script eventually pushes things too far, with twists that just don’t play fair.
But a lot of the jokes are surprising, and one gag — with Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury as a couple confronting an old infidelity — pays off terrifically. The two top stars are delightful, and a couple of cameos are nice surprises.
Sometimes frantic, sometimes funny, “Game Night” is no classic but it actually could be an OK choice for your own date night. And if you don’t have any other plans, it sure beats Monopoly for two.