In Rough Night the wall is fully stained, but very little stuck. There’s a ton of crap on the floor however. That’s unfortunate for a film that had the potential to be this generation’s Very Bad Things or a raunchier than Bridesmaids equivalent to The Hangover. Assuming this doesn’t torpedo the chances for more outrageous female comedies, that comedic white whale still remains elusive.
Director/co-writer Lucia Aniello has a great setup. Four college friends reunite for a Miami bachelorette party. It’s a time to reminisce, party, do a ton of cocaine and maybe even have a little fun with the stripper. And it’s all fun and games until the stripper winds up dead.
For Jess (Scarlett Johansson, Captain America: Civil War), it’s a chance to unwind from a stressful senatorial campaign and let her hair down.
Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs establish Jess early on as their Hillary Clinton analogy, but ditch that to have her play the straight woman. Johansson has a solid comedic touch and is game for any scenario. Her commitment to even the film’s most ridiculous moments is commendable even if not entirely successful.
Jess’ best friend Alice (Jillian Bell) has gone slightly overboard with the itinerary and being extremely possessive of Jess. Bell has a ton of charisma and energy, but she needs to pick her spots better. Similar to other films like Fist Fight and Office Christmas Party, her hyped up overeager characters become annoying as she’s always on 10. Smaller doses or just dialing down to a 6 or 7 at times would do a lot to make those 10 moments so much more effective.
High styling Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and park activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer) just want to have fun without any awkward feelings from their college romance. Frankie plays into a ton of terrible lesbian stereotypes. She’s super masculine, skips deodorant and is an activist for something. It’s hard to see what the high fashion socialite Blair sees in her. Or what bond is even remotely keeping them together. Exploring the foursome’s fraying friendship bond at some point in the 101 minute run time would have been helpful.
All of the characters are caricatures with annoying and obnoxious personality traits. Aniello and Downs make the mistake of writing quirks first and considering the characters much later. Too often the characters do dumb stuff simply for the sake of dragging the plot along. Blair barely has time to discuss her pending divorce before she’s fending off a threesome from the open marriage couple (Ty Burrell and Demi Moore) next door.
Maybe the exception is Kate McKinnon’s character Pippa, Jess’ abroad pal from Australia. Or maybe that’s just because McKinnon is so talented she can overcome the clumsy script and just bring some much needed fun? Just like she did in Ghostbusters, McKinnon steals the show and is easily Rough Night’s MVP. She even scores with the Weekend at Bernie homage.
Aniello sets up the scenes nicely. The first half’s never-ending party is a lot of fun, especially contrasted with Jess’ fiancé Peter’s (Downs) far more restrained bachelor party. Downs has a goofy subplot involving a long road trip, diapers and gay truckers. While the diapers may get full, the laughs are pretty dry during these sequences.
That’s indicative of the film as a whole. There are some semi-consistent chuckles and the occasional good loud laugh moments, but too often Rough Night stumbles. The ingredients — great cast, clever premise and up and coming director — are there, but the script is too half-baked to make this worth the road trip to the theaters.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.