Rough Night is a title that, though semi-meaningless, lets you know where you are to a degree that’s somewhat problematic. It doesn’t actually tell you anything about this specific movie as much as it just lets you know where to find it.
While the film has several funny moments to keep you moving along with it, it’s hard to describe any portion of the plot development without focusing how commonplace and/or “in typical fashion,” that development is. That’s a surprising note in a film about five women who get together for a bachelorette weekend and end up killing a stripper, and one that makes it difficult to get lost in the comedy.
Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and Alice (Jillian Bell) are the main focus of the story and have been best friends, along with Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), since college. Jess is the attractive young woman who befriends her somewhat overweight roommate, and you already know everything you’re going to about their relationship. If you sat down for five minutes looking to knock something out based on that information alone, you’d probably come up with the same ideas of Alice being extremely clingy towards Jess. Alice is desperate not to lose their connection, no matter how far in the rear-view college is, and Jess is starting to avoid Alice when possible because Alice tries to dominate her attention whenever she gets the chance.
Blair and Frankie dated in college, but in the ten years since, Blair has gotten married but is now separated, and you know how that’s going to play out.
As we prepare for Jess’ bachelorette party, which Alice is overplanning, Jess is running for office, Alice is a teacher, Blair is some sort of very wealthy, and Frankie is, apparently, a professional activist. When the party gets together, Pippa (Kate McKinnon), one of Jess’ long-time friends from outside the group, shows up to add some much needed comic effect to the crew, and strain Jess and Alice’s relationship.
It isn’t long before the action really heats up, and the vacation home donated for the weekend by one of Jess’ donors becomes a crime scene. Now the women have to navigate the obvious problems of causing a death while unwilling to call the police because they’ve been doing a lot of drugs. Every decision leads to more problems, makes it harder for them to ever get out of the night unscathed, and opens the door for more hilarity to ensue… more or less. As if things couldn’t get bad enough, and because we had a couple of gags written on napkins that we weren’t sure how to include, Jess’ fiance, Peter (Paul W. Downs), becomes worried when a phone call is cut off and decides to drive his way hundreds of miles to the rescue.
The movie reminds of Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, which is decent enough, but shows off the fact that comic abilities don’t instantly translate to all mediums. Rough Night is directed and co-written by Broad City‘s Lucia Aniello, and co-written by Paul W. Downs, also of Broad City, and the comedy is certainly there. It’s mostly fun, will have you laughing, and avoids the stupidity of the later The Hangover movies in favor of the excusably goofy stylings of “Rough Night” genre entrants like Sisters. What it lacks is a legitimate excuse to keep going for 100 minutes. It includes several gags that are perhaps a lot funnier when tossing things around a writer’s room than they manage on camera, but make it to the final cut anyway because we’ve got time to eat. Our oversexed neighbors Lea (Demi Moore) and Pietro (Ty Burrell) are around as just one example. Socially inappropriate goofs next door are straight out of the comedy Mad Libs, but they don’t ultimately deliver much and aren’t the right kind of uncomfortable.
For every serious laugh in the film, there are 10-15 minutes of muddling through the build, and that comes amid a constant reworking of just how screwy things are going to get. It goes a little too straight, and for too long, to have dead bodies flying out of cars, and too “stoned slapstick” for the relationship themes to have any weight.
The good news is that it’s ultimately worth the time if you’re just looking to have a few laughs, and Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs have the talent to eventually bring things home. There is little that actually brings this down, just not enough bringing it up, and though this one may not become your new favorite, it could easily be in their future.