'Game Night' wins big laughs (MOVIE REVIEW)

Phil on Film

TUCSON, Ariz. - "Game Night" is a groan-inducing, face-palming, did-I-really-just-see/hear-that comedy in the tradition of "The Hangover," "Neighbors" and "Horrible Bosses."

You'll find yourself laughing, then laughing at yourself and others for what you laughed at. All that cackling is likely to keep you from hearing the next joke, likely requiring you to head back to the theater to see it again, no doubt dragging along a friend who is curious about the movie you've been quoting.

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the directors who teamed for the 2015 "Vacation" remake, up the ante even more, adapting a wildfire Mark Perez script into a twist-filled, rambunctious comedy.

Above all, this is Jason Bateman's show, the same way as "Horrible Bosses" and "Arrested Development" were his. Pretty much the same wry, easily irritated beta-male in every role, Bateman has an uncanny ability to lift solid material to a higher level. And that's just what he gets here.

Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, a hyper-competitive married couple who lock horns with their equally winning-obsessed friends in weekly game nights. Kyle Chandler plays Brooks, Max's more successful, ever one-upping brother, who visits town to dominate the traditional get-together.

Brooks insists on moving the game night to his house, in his latest effort to upstage his brother and assert his dominance.

Lamore Morris and Kylie Bunbury play bickering couple Kevin and Michelle, and Billy Magnussen plays Ryan. a bachelor who always drags his latest young, naive dates to the event. In an effort to compete, he brings bright coworker Sarah (Sharon Horgan) to the game night at Brooks's place. Ever one to take things to the next level, Brooks sets up an elaborate kidnapping mystery escape room affair complete with convincing actors. Things soon get out of control... or do they?

Let behind is creepy, dog-carrying cop neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons) lurks in the background, having been shunned from game night after his divorce.  

The directors set their pieces up quickly, then set the rascally, unpredictable game afoot. Packed with twists and razor-sharp pop culture references, the film excels at doubling twist upon twist, keeping you ever off-balance with stingingly funny, joyously inappropriate jokes.

In a film that excels at breaking rules, "Game Night" sticks to only one credo -- to crank out nonstop laughs. In that respect, it's predictably successful. From the first frame, you know the kind of ride you're in for, so you just brace yourself not to squirt your soda out your nose.

Game on.

RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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