I was about to allow this one to slip by, because frankly, it didn't look that great. It seemed to be one of those standard goofy comedies with probable bad writing, and jokes that fell flat. However, reviews came out for this, and to my surprise, they have mostly been positive, so I decided to check it out. While it's not the perfect comedy by any means, it's still a bit of a hidden gem right now, sitting among a bunch of serious dramatic thinkers.
The opening credits tell about how couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meet and get married. From this, we learn that they're both kind of amazing at games, and they host a game night every now and then, involving their close friends. When Max's rich and successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to one, he decides to host one of his own to show them a "real game" - a kidnapping mystery game, staged by professional actors. The lines of reality are blurred, however, when a group of real kidnappers come for Brooks, and the comedy ensues as Max, Annie, and the rest of the group continue trying to solve the "game's" mystery.
The whole idea behind it is somewhat obvious, but it's kinda fun to watch how oblivious these guys are with things. Truth be told, the highlights of the film are in the side characters. For example, one of the friends, Ryan (Billy Magnussen) plays the over-eager dummy, and often gets a laugh. But surprisingly enough perhaps the best character here is the creepy neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons). I generally don't have anything nice to say about Plemons, as he's ALWAYS playing a character I love to hate whenever I see him. In this, however, there's something about his overall creepiness that's actually kinda hilariously off-putting. He represents that one guy you just don't wanna ever invite to anything, but he knows full well how it is, and he keeps dropping hints about it. You almost feel bad for him, until you take a look at yourself and realize you probably wouldn't invite him out either.
The comedy in this is kinda hit or miss. It mostly comes from the basic stupidity of these otherwise quite smart characters. There are some gags that don't work altogether well, but I feel like most of the jokes landed pretty well, given the whole situation. Bateman's actually pretty great at sneaking in those random one-liners, and McAdams makes for a good partner going along for the ride. Both are fiercely competitive, and things get pretty funny when they find themselves in more-dire-than-they-realize situations.
Again, this isn't the perfect comedy or anything, and it is pretty over-the-top silly for a lot of the climactic stuff. But it's a fun time, if nothing else. It's definitely a dark comedy, which is something I tend to be very appreciative of as well, so there may be a slight bias here on my part. But to be honest, for a movie that looked like it wasn't gonna be that good, it was actually a pleasant surprise.
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