All images courtesy of Sony Pictures
Let’s face it: the only people who are actually having a good time in a Bachelorette Party, are the people who are participating in the actual party. Take a survey and I’m sure that no one — woman or man — gets excited when a group of gals dressed in assorted penis accouterment and pageant sashes that say “Bride-to-be” enter a dining establishment or bar. They get drunk, are obnoxiously loud, and monopolize a public area with their self-important celebration. Sure, they’re having fun, but when their fun causes eye-rolls and groans from the bystanders around them just trying to enjoy their Chili’s Baby Back ribs it ruins everything. ROUGH NIGHT looks as though it would go down this dreaded route, but it defies expectations with solid comedy and adds raunchy nuance (didn’t know that was possible) to the predictable drunken, drug-ridden fun of a cinematic bachelorette party.
The movie starts appropriately to a flashback of BFFs Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and Alice (Jillian Bell) playing beer pong at a frat party while their friends Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) cheer them on. After conquering the skillful sport of throwing ping pong balls into red solo cups, we see the four of them bond one last time before graduating from college, thus establishing the strong relationship that is sure to last for years to come.
Fast forward 10 years later and the four have stayed friends, but lead separate lives. Blair has become super successful in her career, but is going through a separation and child custody battle while Frankie is a “full-time activist”. Meanwhile, Jess is running for political office and is about to get hitched to her super-supportive fiance Peter (Paul W. Downs – who also co-wrote the movie). Alice is a teacher and is super stringent with her plans for Jess’s bachelorette party in Miami which she guarantees will be amazing and will provide an endless stock of pictures for her social media feed.
Upon their arrival, they meet Jess’s good friend from Australia Pippa (Kate McKinnon), who Alice is immediately threatened by, and waste no time in getting things lit AF. When they retire to their luxe rental beach house for some stripper fun, an accident kills the dancer causing the girls to panic, which sets off a series of events — and bad choices — that make for an off-the-rails comedy that could have been a total mess, but ends up being clever with its storytelling and, most of all, wildly enjoyable.
Despite Bridesmaids and expected “female version of The Hangover” comparisons, Rough Night stands on its own as a delightful comedy of errors and the value of friendship with moments of LOL-worthy jokes as well as broad humor that doesn’t quite stick the landing. As the story unfolds, you tend to question the choices made by director/co-writer Lucia Aniello. What seems like random devices to squeeze a laugh out of you, turn out to be a trail of breadcrumbs that nicely come together at the very end. Sure, there are some laughs for the sake of laughs like the super horny neighbors (brilliantly played by Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) and an adult diaper bit with Downs’ character, but those are just nuggets of joy from the duo (who are part of the Broad City team). Everything seems to fall into place — and it’s a great relief. With a movie like this you would just expect the same ol’ Girls Gone Wild tropes, but Aniello thoughtfully keeps this party on course.
Johansson does well with comedy, not because she’s a fine comedic actress, but because she is surrounded by exceptional talent like the highly underrated Bell, who elevates the material in every role she plays — Rough Night included. As BFFs, they share a fantastic chemistry. Add the other actresses to the mix and the movie sings like a drunken girl at karaoke belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Glazer never fails to deliver and having worked with Aniello and Downs before, it gives her a home court advantage — and who would have known Kravitz could deliver some laughs? As the uptight, uptown-type, she holds her own — particularly in a very intimate scene with Moore and Burrell. Then there is McKinnon, who is a comedy treasure on her own. As the oddly optimistic and clueless Pippa, she first comes off as a drawn out SNL sketch and her Australian accent initially seems like a gimmick, but as the movie progresses, it folds in nicely and garners wide-eyed, McKinnon-grade laughs.
Rough Night is not a knock-it-out-of-the-park movie that people will be talking about for decades to come, but it is a solid comedy that plays to the strengths of the talented cast. It calls back to the absurdity and charm of Weekend at Bernie’s while skewering the traditional bachelorette party in its own special way. It’s silly, funny, and has the perfect amount of heart that will leave you and your BFFs drunk in love by the end.
Running time: 101 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Film Critic