You know how games with your friends often take that leap from jovial fun to hyper-competitive?

Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) take their weekly challenges to the next level, from the family room couch to streets of danger in the likable new comedy Game Night.

They love to play trivia, charades, fishbowl, Jenga and seemingly all board games. Most of all, they like to win.

Max’s older brother, the flashy, full-of-himself Brooks (Kyle Chandler), kicks it up a notch by inviting the couple to his house for a more organized Murder Mystery night, which promises realistic mayhem and a kidnapping.

Along for the fun are Max and Annie’s regular game-night crew, which includes longtime couple Michelle and Kevin (Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris), and the actively single Ryan (Billy Magnussen). Ryan is handsome but a bit of a dolt. His MO is that he brings a different eye-candy date each week for the games. But on the night of the Murder Mystery, Ryan comes with a ringer, his brainy co-worker Sarah (Sharon Horgan). Sarah is from Ireland, but Ryan keeps insisting she is British, and therefore “smart.”

Needless to say, it’s no surprise when the staged kidnapping turns into something more sinister. (One of the party guests has a secret that puts everyone at risk.) Suddenly the gang is scouring the streets scavenger-hunt style and tangling with some bad dudes.

For comic, and creepy, relief, the group also reaches out to Max and Annie’s neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), a police officer who never takes off his uniform, never stops petting his handheld dog and never stops pining over his ex-wife. In terms of his unrelenting gaze, Plemons goes full stone-cold serial killer. (Perhaps the DVD extras will show us how hard it was for him to maintain that steely stare.)

Written by Mark Perez and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (the team behind the Ed Helms comedy Vacation), Game Night is not exactly a great movie. There’s not an ounce of believability in these characters, and several scenes play like forced set pieces. But thanks to its charming cast and some good laughs, Game Night is a fun, silly slice of escapism.

It helps that Bateman and McAdams are two of our most affable movie stars. They are both deft at delivering dry asides and getting caught up in the more manic moments.

It’s also fun to see Chandler get to play an arrogant ne’er do well for a change.

Side note: Friday Night Lights fans might appreciate a mini-reunion between Chandler’s Coach Taylor and Plemons’ Landry Clarke, though they don’t have a lot of scenes together.

There are also brief appearances by Jeffrey Wright, Danny Huston and Michael C. Hall. The super-talented Wright has such a small part, you wonder why he even bothered. Maybe he just likes playing games.

By the way, don’t leave the theater too quickly. The closing credits cleverly tie up some of the film’s loose ends.

Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or coconnor@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.