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'Rough Night’ Isn’t Everything We Could Have Hoped For, But That's OK

By Rebecca Pahle | Reviews | June 16, 2017 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Reviews | June 16, 2017 |

This weekend sees the release of Rough Night, the feature debut of Broad City writer/director Lucia Aniello. Aniello works here with her Broad City collaborators Paul Downs and Ilana Glazer, in addition to a bevy of other funny, talented ladies and also some dudes.

The result… is fine. It is a fine, good, funny movie. It’s not as funny as recent comedy hits like Spy, Shame, or Scott Pilgrim, but it’ll do the job if you’re looking for a boozy night out with the ladies.

(See, that me with a #joke, because Steve McQueen’s Shame is very much not a comedy. Happy Friday, y’all!)

As in Bridesmaids and Bachelorette, the kickoff point for Rough Night’s comedy stylings is that there’s going to be a wedding. Groups of women hang out under different circumstances than bachelorette parties, I swear! Getting hitched this time around is Jess (Scarlett Johansson), an aspiring politician low-key worried that getting too crazy on her bachelorette weekend in Miami might torpedo her shot at the State Senate. There’s some pointed Clinton metaphor work happening in an early scene: Jess, buttoned up and a a bit awkward, is losing to an unseen opponent whom people like because he does “fun” things like accidentally tweet dick pics.

Alas, once Jess and her best friends from college get together, crazy happens whether Jess wants it to or not. Insecure, neurotic Alice (Jillian Bell) suggests a stripper. Liberal activist Frankie (Glazer) suggests they do coke. And bam, before you know it, there’s a body to hide. Meanwhile, a phone call from Jess about how a vague something happened with a stripper has her fiancé Peter (Downs) pulling a “sad astronaut”—aka driving cross-country while wearing diapers and chugging Red Bull—to win her back.

There are a lot of funny people in the room here. Kate McKinnon is predictably wonderful as Pippa, Jess’ kooky Australian friend from study abroad. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore play the swingers-next-door, who lounge around in bathing suits trying to seduce Blair (Zoë Kravitz), the sexy ‘n’ sophisticated one of Jess’ group. And Eric André, Bo Burnham, Hasan Minhaj, Karan Soni, and Mark Tallman are the familiar faces that make up Peter’s bachelor party, a hilariously sedate wine tasting.

The problem is that I wish Aniello had gone further with it. Though Rough Night’s premise is wacky, there’s not much to it, so stretching it out across one hour and 41 minutes waters the whole thing down. (Broad City episodes: 22 minutes.) With a thin plot and stock characters—the Career Woman (Kravitz), the Sad Singleton (Bell), the Hippie (Glazer), the Weirdo (McKinnon), and The Normal One (Johansson)—you really have to go over-the-top crazy to compensate, and Rough Night doesn’t. Go full Weekend at Bernie’s! Give me more sexpot MILF Demi Moore! She’s in like two scenes! Do not waste Demi Moore like this. On top of that, Scarlett Johansson’s not particularly funny, but she’s also not a particularly great straightwoman. She’s just… there, dragging the fun down. Give me more Kate McKinnon. I watched Rock Dog. I’ve heard this.

That said, despite some lost potential, Rough Night is by no means a bad movie. Individual scenes are quite funny. You put McKinnon and Bell together, and you’re going to have a fun time. It’s not great, but if you’re looking for some laughs this weekend, it’ll do the job admirably.

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