What's funny to some people can be annoying, ridiculous and certainly unfunny to others. That's been the case with comics, such as Louis CK, Andrew Dice Clay and the late Andy Kaufman, but those were stand-ups. In the case of the new movie, "Game Night," the enjoyment dilemma may hit the characters themselves more than the audience.
Let me explain: Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) are a sweet, quirky couple who got together because of their mutual love of fun and games. Together they have drawn around them a likable circle of friends who enjoy the same. Now, to be clear, the fun and games are pretty much of the G-rated sort.
So, once in a while, they get together for a game night, where they play board games or maybe participation games, such as charades or "Pictionary." Max and Annie also have a neighbor, a very odd police officer named Gary (Jesse Plemons), who used to be a member of this circle until his wife left him. Actually, it was the wife who was more fun, but with her gone, Max and Annie have politely tried to exclude him.
Into this well of suburban harmony steps Brooks (Kyle Chandler), Max's loud and flamboyant brother who is also rich and successful. We can tell this right away because he shows up in a vintage Corvette. Max hasn't seen Brooks in quite a while, so it's also a reunion of sorts.
Brooks is also the wild card in this bunch, which he proves by suggesting to alter the usual game-night offerings. In fact, he's already done it.
If you ever saw David Fincher's "The Game" (1997), in which a wealthy man's life is turned upside down when his brother gives him a rather unusual birthday gift, you may have an inkling of what Brooks has gotten his brother, sister-in-law and their friends into.
Interestingly, none of the friends seem to pick up on that connection to the Fincher movie, especially since they're all so pop-culture savvy. Maybe the producers couldn't buy the rights to a little post-it note for the script?
Whatever, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein soon take their characters, and the audience, down a twisty-turny roller-coaster ride filled with thugs with guns, real violence, car chases, an accidental bullet wound and a "fight club" for rich people (see, there's another Finchian reference). Also, along the way, the participants soon realize that the old parental adage, "It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt," is taking on real meaning.
The movie is fun, fast-faced and surprising even after you think you've got things figured out. It's not a classic, but it would make a great date movie or at least something to help pass a snowy afternoon or evening.
Co-stars include Danny Huston, Michael C. Hall, Chelsea Peretti, Sharon Hogan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Harris and Kylie Bunbury.
Tempo grade: B
"Game Night" is rated R for language, sexual references and some violence.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañon Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The following was compiled from press materials.
MPAA rating: R for some sexual material and language
Movies at the TCA
This film was written and directed by Austrian director Michael Haneke.
Gradually succumbing to dementia, George Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the octogenarian patriarch of the Laurents, an affluent upper-bourgeois family, is uncomfortably sharing his palatial manor in Calais, the heart of the infamous migrant jungle, with his twice-married son, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), and Anne (Isabelle Huppert), his workaholic daughter who has taken over the family construction business.
Divorced and frigid, Anne has to handle the impact of a disastrous workplace accident caused by her disappointing son Pierre’s (Franz Rogowski) negligence, while at the same time, the urgent hospitalization of Thomas’ ex-wife from a mysterious poisoning. The ex-wife’s illnes leadsThomas’ sulky 13-year-old daughter, Ève (Fantine Harduin), to live with her father and his new wife, Anais (Laura Verlinden). Undoubtedly, in this family, everyone has a skeleton in the closet, and as the fates of the Laurents enmesh with insistent and ignoble desires, a peculiar and disturbing alliance will form. But, in the end, some secrets are bigger than others.
“If you are even only a little familiar with the work of the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke,” film critic Glenn Kenny writes in The New York Times, “it will come as no surprise that he does not regard instant messaging and smartphones as positive developments for humanity. His latest picture, ‘Happy End,’ begins with the middle of its wide-screen frame taken up by the perfectly centered image of a phone, its camera eavesdropping on a middle-age woman whose bathroom door is open as she prepares for bed. The unseen voyeur texts snide commentary on the woman’s routine.”
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 4), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (March 5-7).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.