“Rough Night” Movie Review


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     About half way through director Lucia Aniello’s “Rough Night”, two of the characters effectively sum up everything that proceeds the scene and certainly everything that will come after by uttering the words “This is stupid.”.  It’s beyond me why such current and up and coming talents like Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Jillian Bell would be involved in what is essentially a remake of Peter Berg’s 1998 film “Very Bad Things”, as well as a “The Hangover” wannabe in which we get to see women mimicking the same behaviors they would normally berate men for.  And yet, nearly 20 years after Berg’s film sought to up the ante in “Pulp Fiction” like black comedy, “Rough Night” follows nearly the same script, but eventually finds itself going in directions so incredibly lame, one can't help but roll their eyes, look at their watch, and wish we had gone to see the shark movie instead.

     It’s important to bring up “Pulp Fiction” in this circumstance, so as to understand where this type of storyline came from in the first place.  As we all know, Quentin Tarantino crafted his Oscar winning masterpiece in 1994, taking the film going world by storm with a never before seen combination of comedy, slick dialogue, and storytelling that would skillfully make its way to a climax played for maximum shock value.  In the years that followed, several other filmmakers would attempt to write like Tarantino, trying to replicate the kinds of characters and situations he had now become famous for.  Berg’s “Very Bad Things” was one of those attempts.  And you may recall the plot, which involved a bachelor party gone bad when a prostitute is accidentally killed, leaving the group with the obvious problem of how best to dispose of the body.  Of course this is simply a riff on the third story in “Pulp Fiction” in which Vincent Vega accidentally shoots Marvin, forcing Vincent and Jules to call in the Wolf in order to rid themselves of a very messy situation.

     Making both her feature directing and writing debut, Lucia Aniello may have found a much better use of her talents by pitching a concept that hasn't found itself so overused, especially in the past several years.  Aside from the obvious connection with “Very Bad Things”, “Rough Night” follows along the many well established tropes from “The Hangover” films, but also plays like a retread of some of the better recent stuff from the female led comedy genre such as “Bridesmaids”, “Trainwreck”, and “Bad Moms”.  What separates “Rough Night” from those three is the characters and how they act.  Aniello and her co-screenwriter, Paul W. Downs, have written this bunch into a series of scenarios that are so incredibly slapstick and over the top at every turn, that the proceedings become frustrating to watch.  Not a single intelligent decision is ever made, and each scene becomes more of a reach than the last.  Funny thing is, I think these scenes were intended to make us laugh, but each and every punch line fails even more miserably than the last.  Sadly, this results in the entire film running out of air long before the third act begins, ensuring we really don't care what happens to the characters at all.

     Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is getting married, and lucky her she happens to still maintain a relationship with one of her college buddies, Alice (Jillian Bell), who is more than happy to get the old gang together and have a bachelorette party.  This brings them together with Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), two other friends from their college days, as well as Pippa (Kate McKinnon), a recent friend of Jess from Australia.  The five of them head to Miami and partake in the usual hijinks.  Clubbing, drinking, snorting cocaine, I mean what else would you expect right?  And what bachelorette party would be complete without the presence of a male stripper?  Of course, we already know the story.  The stripper is accidentally killed when the horseplay amongst the women gets out of hand.  And we then spend the rest of the film watching these five bumble heads try to figure their way out of the situation without finding themselves in prison.  Just think of it.  Five coked out girls and a bloody male stripper corpse in a high end Miami beach house.  Oh the possibilities.  

     Unfortunately, neither Aniello or Downs, who does double duty playing Jess’ husband to be Peter, can come up with anything remotely interesting or creative for these women to do other than the usual potty mouth low brow humor already used more effectively in dozens of other R-rated comedies in the last 20 years.  Even Demi Moore, who plays an over sexed neighbor of the Miami beach house seems as though she would have been better served as being one of the girls instead of a forgettable side show character who makes no impact whatsoever.  McKinnon clearly has some fun with her role and is responsible for the two times the audience I saw the film with actually laughed, but the overall vibe is just two mean and self serving to really be considered a comedy anyway.  Instead, we get a story that has been told before in a much better way, populated with women whose abilities far exceed what this lame and nearly unwatchable mess allows them to display. 

GRADE: D-