Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are together as man and wife for a reason, and that reason is gaming. Not video gaming, but activities such as board games, charades, guess who games, stuff like that: they met at a bar's night given over to trivia questions and have loved one another ever since. However, this fun is all very well, but isn't it time they started getting serious about starting a family? After all, everyone else their age they know has children, so maybe it's overdue, though a problem arises that the doctor thinks may be psychological: Max's brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) makes him feel inferior, and this is affecting their chances of conceiving...
What does that have to do with games, you may ask, but this early plot point was the key to the whole movie, showing the promise of directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein in screenwriting was coming to fruition. This was one of those films where nobody had any expectations - it was advertised as from the Horrible Bosses team, a couple of efforts that were not exactly loved, more tolerated by most people seeking a comedy - but off the back of a very decent screenplay for Spider-Man: Homecoming they seemed to be finding their feet. Helping was an excellent ensemble cast who wrung every last giggle out of increasingly preposterous material.
They were led by Bateman, who had experience of ensemble comedy on television as well as film, and McAdams, demonstrating genuinely superb comic timing and ability as she came close to stealing the film from her co-stars. Not that this was a competition, it was made as a game night project, but in truth every character, down to the bit parts, had an opportunity to shine as Daley and Goldstein, working from Mark Perez's original work, were welcome to give it a go at getting a laugh, and more often than not they did. No expectations was the best way to approach this, as it became a pleasant surprise, the comedy you thought might be mildly amusing that was often hilarious.
The plot was a convoluted mixture of other comedies that had either been huge hits or cult favourites, or as time went by, both, as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was the template they used to get the characters on their mission, then mix that with the Bill Murray item The Man Who Knew Too Little and the Michael Douglas vehicle The Game, among other movies that centred around a group going off in different directions but with a common goal, think lesser pieces such as Midnight Madness or Rat Race. It was a formula, essentially an adventure with chuckles, pressed into service not enormously often, and not enormously successfully, but when the stars aligned and everyone was on the same page (or script) could generate as much entertainment as any game addicts could during their quality time.
Supporting Bateman and McAdams were a collection of talents, some of whom were more famous than others, with the lesser known Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury proving themselves a screen couple who we could do with seeing more of, together or individually (Bunbury's running gag about her famous encounter had a great pay-off), and Sharon Horgan (from TV) and Billy Magnussen generated enjoyable chemistry as the chalk and cheese pair somewhat thrown together for the plot that had you guessing throughout. However, if there was one performer who rivalled McAdams it was Jesse Plemons as the cop neighbour, he didn't have as much screen time, but he made a terrific impression with hitherto unsuspected skills in humour, something it's clear the directors realised when his scenes were among the biggest laugh-getters of the whole production. No, it wasn't the tightest of plots, and yes, it was never less than hard to believe, but who needed to believe what was a bright spot in twenty-tens comedy? It was a pleasure to see so many applying themselves to something so incredibly silly. Music by Cliff Martinez.