Game Night ★★½

I was hoping for something a little more grownup than The Nice Guys and Spy but essentially ended up with the same basic concept: half-assed thriller plus half-assed zaniness equals whatever this is. An enthusiastic cast led by Rachel McAdams (who's quite fun) and Jason Bateman (who's Jason Bateman) act out a sketchy action-comic script apparently heavily rewritten by directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein; as usual in modern comedies of this nature, the frantic plotting so outpaces the humor in a desperation to maintain the interest of an audience given no credit whatsoever that it feels like a prolonged bludgeoning. The characterizations are mostly half-baked in the traditional sense common to so many contemporary movies in which people talk to each other like they're a bunch of bobbleheads being toyed with by some offscreen ten year-old. Still, there are some real laughs, especially from Jesse Plemons -- who at this point seems to be a truly great, well-controlled actor; and whose arc here is surprisingly touching -- and some of the lower-key scenes (I fucking lost it at the $17 attempted bribe, even though the joke was half-cribbed from a Beavis and Butt-Head episode I have almost no doubt Daley et al. have seen). All the intrigue falls flat, which has been a problem in this kind of movie as far back as Some Like It Hot and now seems pervasive. I really don't want to be hard on a film that's this harmlessly likable but I also can't help feeling like the world would be a better place if these people had to watch and process Holiday before they attempted a comedy. The pregnancy/conception arc is cringey bordering on offensive; someday can we have a movie in which a couple realizes it's an awesome idea not to have children?? (Even Noah Baumbach let us down.) But this is probably a case of my lack of synchronicity with my own culture, a long-running problem. All the exuberant praise for this feels like the bar for decency is being set a little too low, and we're really starved for wit, but I know I've always been difficult with turning off and chilling out for this kind of thing so perhaps my annoyance is totally unfair... Maybe I'm just jealous that these are adults with an actual friend group and they all basically get along!

Kooky studio logos-as-game pieces bit at the beginning was rather cool.

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