“Game Night” For a Post-Valentine’s Day Date

We have been pulling out board games for years, and “Settlers of Catan” is the current choice. But the occasional murder mystery party livens things up, so we were looking forward to a film based on the premise of a real life adventure being inserted into an otherwise innocent gathering.

The fetching leads Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play the competitive couple always ready for a challenge. There is a slight undercurrent as the couple have differing perspectives on becoming parents. That issue takes a back burner as soon things go sideways when a new player is injected into their routine game nights, and the line between invigorating game play and real life danger becomes blurry.

In classic fashion, writer Mark Perez lets the audience see what the lead characters can’t. Folks in the audience visibly squirm, squelching the desire to shout out warnings. Bateman’s quick delivery and comic timing are an asset, and reveal a side of his talent not seen in the far darker “Ozark” series currently airing. MacAdams also played a more somber role in the excellent first season of “True Detective,” but here the pair evince a physical adeptness in chase scenes that tightens their relationship as the danger of the game-gone-awry becomes apparent.

It’s not clear how directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein split their duties, but it might be that one was handling the lighter, comedic moments and the other handled the edgier dangerous sequences. Regardless, the balance works well.

There is clever use at the end of another parlor game to resolve the parental sublot.

Support from an intriguing cast is generally strong, notably Danny Huston, Sharon Horgan and Billy Magnuson.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.