(out of 5)
Party game enthusiasts Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams meet at a bar during a trivia contest, the tension of their competitive spirits making them a very happy couple who, since getting married, have been hosting game nights for their friends on a regular basis. Their doctor tells them that their issues with getting pregnant might have to do with his stress levels, which are related to his dedication to winning games and even more so to the impending arrival of his far more successful older brother (Kyle Chandler). Chandler, who drives his brother’s dream car and is renting a giant mansion now that he’s back in town, asks to host his own game night and invites his brother and sister-in-law as well as the two other couples with whom they regularly play. He tells them that he has set up something that is way more than just something involving dice and a board: someone in the room is going to be kidnapped and the winner will be the one who figures out the victim’s location. The prize is his car, but Bateman is in for more than a status symbol, he’s looking to make up for an entire life of feeling inferior to a rich, popular sibling who never needs to make any effort to get everything he wants. What a bad coincidence it is, then, when Chandler is taken by actual kidnappers and not the actors he hired from a local entertainment service, which the players don’t realize as they go on car chases and shoot each other with real guns before it dawns on them that they’re on a real rescue mission. Given that they are all highly competitive, though, means that they bring quite a lot of game-related gusto and a rich sense of fun to the task in this endlessly funny comedy. The smart script is worked out to satisfaction in all respects, building up jokes that always pay off and providing twists that are treat even when they’re a surprise. The chemistry is spot-on between all the performers, particularly in the case of Bateman and McAdams in the lead, who sparkle when performing either their witty banter or their more physical scenes. Airplane crashes, secret rich guy fight clubs, a wonderful game of hot potato involving a Faberge egg and a very, very hilarious scene involving the dirtying of a cute white dog are just some of the pleasures of this winner.
Screenplay by Mark Perez
Cinematography by Barry Peterson
Music by Cliff Martinez
Production Design by Michael Corenblith
Costume Design by Debra McGuire