By Richard Roeper
Directed by Lucia Aniello
“ROUGH NIGHT” doesn’t begin to cover it.
It’s also “Painfully Unfunny Night,” “Contrived Night,” “Unsurprising Plot Twist Night” and also, “How Do These Dimwits Ever Make It Through Any Night?”
This R-rated dark comedy is essentially a female-starring take on Very Bad Things, the Peter Berg film from 1998 starring Jon Favreau, Christian Slater, Daniel Stern, and Jeremy Piven as friends who gather for a bachelor party in Las Vegas that takes a deadly turn when a stripper is accidentally killed.
From that point forward, things go from bad to really bad to unspeakable to worse.
In Rough Night, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer are friends who gather for a bachelorette party in Miami that takes a deadly turn when a stripper is accidentally killed.
From that point forward, things go from sitcom stupid to off-putting to bizarre to tapping our toes waiting for the proceedings to wobble to a halt.
As we’ve noted in previous reviews of not-good films, when we get the oh-so-tired, allegedly funny group slo-mo walk in a movie, it’s almost always an indicator we’re watching a lazy comedy.
Rough Night has two such moments. Wait, I think there were actually three. Sigh.
Scarlett Johansson plays the bride-to-be, Jess, a buttoned-down type running for the state Senate in South Carolina. Paul W. Downs is her fiance, Peter, a sensitive wimp who can’t believe he’s landed Jess. (As one of Peter’s friends puts it, Peter is a six, while Jess is a 20.)
Neither Jess nor Peter nor any of the other characters we see in the South Carolina scenes sound like they’re from South Carolina. (And speaking of inexplicable accents, remind me to tell you about Kate McKinnon’s stab at sounding Australian.)
In Miami Beach, Jess is reunited with her best friends from college: the successful, beautiful and elegant Blair (Zoe Kravitz), who now lives in Manhattan; Frankie (Ilana Glazer), a far-left activist; the surly and needy schoolteacher Alice (Jillian Bell); and Jess’s pal Pippa (Kate McKinnon), with whom she bonded when Jess spent a semester in Australia.
The ladies set up camp in a multimillion-dollar house in Miami Beach, loaned to them for the weekend courtesy of a wealthy donor to Jess’s campaign. They meet the neighbors, Pietro (Ty Burrell) and Lea (Demi Moore), a swinging couple who seem to think they’re in a 1970s porno movie.
After some tedious party scenes in which the women snort cocaine and pound down shots and snort more cocaine and pound down more drinks, they return to the fabulous beach house and order up some pizza and a stripper (Ryan Cooper), who winds up dead about 90 seconds into the routine.
The stripper’s death is an accident, but there are drugs in the house, and Jess has a political campaign to think about, and Frankie has two previous convictions and is worried she’ll get hit with a 20-year prison sentence, and besides, we need the movie to continue, so instead of calling the police, these inebriated, babbling, squabbling, not terribly bright friends make one bad decision after another.
One minute Rough Night plays like Weekend at Bernie’s. Then it feels like Bridesmaids. Then it’s as if we’re seeing a spin-off of The Hangover.
Almost none of it feels original or fresh or spirited.
At times the attempts at outrageous comedy are flat-out off-putting. Blair basically prostitutes herself in an ill-conceived plan to recover some incriminating security tapes. Peter decides to drive down to Miami to find out what’s going on, and his plan includes strapping on an adult diaper so he won’t have to make bathroom pit stops, guzzling Red Bulls and ingesting drugs to keep him hyper alert. What a guy.
Rough Night is all the more disappointing given the director and co-writer is the talented Lucia Aniello from Comedy Central’s excellent Broad City. (Co-writer Downs, who plays the hapless Peter, is also a Broad City vet.)
Despite a wobbly Australian accent, McKinnon scores a few laughs as the strange but endearing Pippa. Johansson gamely throws herself into the mix, but she’s stuck playing an uninteresting, not particularly likable character. Just about everyone else, including Ty Burrell and Demi Moore as those skeevy sex-door neighbors, gets swept away by the tides of banal setups and forgettable punch lines.
Rough night for all of us. — Chicago Sun-Times/Andrews McMeel Syndication
Rating: One star and a half
MTRCB Rating: R-16