In some movies, comedic timing is everything. “Game Night” plays on the all-important pacing of plot and dialog. Fortunately, this film’s screenplay offers the ensemble cast all it needs to execute the jokes and keep them coming. Refreshing and funny!

The set up isn’t terribly complicated. A group of couples come together once a week to play traditional games. They eat, drink, and socialize over a competitive game of “Life,” Charades, or “Pictionary.” In the process they manage to ostracize their weird next door neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), whose deadpan quirkiness steals every scene he’s in. “Breaking Bad” fans will know him. 

learly, everybody involved enjoys the competition, but one couple in particular lives for all things competitive. Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) play to win, and winning is all.

Having a competitive spirit during game night is one thing, but Max extends that keen edge to his life. His big brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) appears to have it all – a glamorous life style, lots of money, and a dream job that nobody really understands. As Brooks ascends to the top, Max’s anxiety kicks in. In the competition of life, Brooks seems to be winning.

The two brothers’ relationship goes from bad to worse when Brooks arrives on game night driving a classic red Corvette, Max’s dream car. On top that vexation, Brooks belittles the board games and offers to host a “real” game night at his rented mansion the next week.

Now the real games begin because Brooks enlists a company that stages life-like drama complete with a kidnapping, actors playing bad guys, and a fake FBI agent. The other gamer couples launch into the fun. Sarah (Sharon Horgan) and Ryan (Billy Magnussen) may be a poorly matched couple, but they propel the game’s hijinks. Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) find themselves locked in a room engaged in physical antics as they try to escape.

As the game progresses, circumstances and people surrounding Brooks intervene, and everything goes off the tracks. The derailment provides the stuff of humor, lots of it. Laugh out loud moments come hard and fast as the final chaos ensues. An entertaining mix of clues will solve the game’s mystery. Those include gun battles, car chases, an airplane crash, a bloody dog, bullet holes, and slugfests. Everything calculated to make you laugh if you can suspend disbelief.

And that’s how the game is played.  

Rated R for language, sexual references and some violence.

Marilyn Robitaille writes film reviews for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter.