Game Night ★★★★

Six years ago today, I started doing local pub trivia with a pair of friends. Well, one was a friend. I knew the other person from a work assignment but we hadn't yet hung out socially. There was no limit on the number of people per team. We dusted groups of more than twice our size and walked away with $50 in gift cards. Tuesday-night trivia quickly became a tradition - to the point where we racked up about $600 in gift cards before we started to use them. Teams of 12 lost to, and cursed at, us. One of the few nights where we neither won nor placed was a night that the outgoing quizmaster suspiciously joined a team for the second game ... and they finished shy of a perfect score. (Yes, we notified the manager diplomatically but firmly. The next week, that team called itself: "Don't Worry. Chelsea's Not On Our Team This Week." I'll let you draw conclusions.)

And then kids. For one. Then the other. Then the first one again ... with triplets. Trivia quickly fell by the wayside. But not other interests they placed higher on the hierarchy. Those friends still made time for sports, and joining each other to watch them, which is comparatively not as much my thing. Rarely anymore do I see these friends. I don't begrudge them their kids or their choices. It is what it is. I have friends that I blow off in favor of something I prefer. You have friends that you blow off in favor of something you prefer. The last time we all played trivia? I couldn't tell you with a gun to my head, which, coincidentally, is a position in which many characters in "Game Night" find themselves.

This long introduction is prelude to my one real problem with the movie - the conventionally cheery notion that parenthood is an inherent vacuum abhorred by the nature of marriage or domestic partnership. On one hand, I wanted to roll my eyes as Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams' characters rolled their dice in games contemplating this as the missing puzzle piece. On the other, I knew that such a seemingly savage social satire wasn't going to sustain its sting. This isn't Todd Solondz's Game Night or anything. Still, what might have elevated this from a traditional hoot to a thoughtful treatise would be wondering how it would fundamentally change them and their friends (which would then require said friends to be anything other than very funny comic relief). Maybe there's a version of this film in which a couple's comparative lack of responsibility as this night plays out reveals they are not ready to have kids and maybe they never will be.

ALL of that aside, this is one of the funniest studio concept comedies in a long time - packed with a murderer's row of supporting players, all of whom slay, and one of the most believable portrayals of nasty-polite competitiveness in a long time. No one wants to be seen as the dumb one, the ostracized, the sloughed off, and whatever Mark Perez's screenplay waters down in the homestretch, it slugs unfettered in the decisions of one character - which factor into the least predictable direction for this story to go. Cheers to Bateman and McAdams, too, for their effortless inhabitance of couplespeak without it feeling cutesy or overly manufactured. What a great role for Kyle Chandler, too, comedically cutting loose in ways that limber up an already nimble performer. Jesse Plemons continues to cement his place as a deadpan force of nature.

One last thing: Nobody who mans a weekly pub trivia team wears a shirt with "Captain" on it. At least not anybody good. You see them? You can dominate them. Easily. And I hope you're with friends.