Stars: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger, James Rebhorn, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Written by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, Andrew Kevin Walker. Directed by David Fincher. Rated R for violence, profanity, nudity.

Michael Douglas plays a workaholic investment banker whose shiftless brother (Sean Penn) gives him an unusual birthday present for his 48th birthday. The present is a certificate redeemable for a game to be administered by Consumer Recreation Services. How the game is played, and what its objective is, are not disclosed to and each game is uniquely crafted for a specific participant. Douglas' game involves him going from one awkward, baffling, or dangerous situation to another in the company of a woman whose level of involvement in the proceedings is unclear. Is the game winnable, or is it merely an intricate scam set up to dupe the rich out of their money?

Besides plodding along at a snailís pace, the big problem with "The Game" is that todayís audiences are too smart to fall for its "tricky" plot. We are supposed to be unsure of when the game stops and reality starts, but the truth is that itís all too obvious. Douglas does fine with what heís given, but donít come to the film expecting to see Penn much. The bottom line is that "The Game" is too clever for its own good.

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