Rough Night Directed by Lucia Aniello
Published Jun 16, 2017Is there anything sadder than seeing a funny and talented cast in a comedy that doesn't work? A prime example: The enviable ensemble that mugs and flails about in the increasingly tedious Rough Night, trying their best to take a paper-thin premise and a badly telegraphed plot and make lemonade out of lemons.
Aiming for somewhere in the neighbourhood of a darker Bridesmaids (or a lighter Very Bad Things, at the very least), the screwball comedy miscalculates considerably and ends up somewhere closer to dreaded Weekend at Bernie's territory instead.
After a few memorable turns as host of Saturday Night Live, it's nice to see Scarlett Johansson fully indulge her comedic side as Jess, an aspiring politician on the verge of both an election and a marriage to the sweet and sensitive Peter (Paul W. Downs, who also co-wrote the screenplay). For her bachelorette party, she reunites in Miami with all of her best friends from college, a collection of thinly sketched eccentrics.
There's the organizer of the party, Alice (Jillian Bell), a horn-dog teacher with a meticulously planned itinerary for the weekend; Blair (Zoe Kravitz), a wealthy single mom working through a separation from her husband; Frankie (Ilana Glazer), a counterculture activist who once dated Blair; and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), a kooky Australian Jess met on a semester abroad who's meeting the rest of her friends for the first time.
Shortly after arriving in Miami and settling into the extravagant beachfront house where they'll be residing for the festivities, the requisite stripper shows up. Of course, the easily excitable Alice can't help herself and leaps onto his lap, causing him to fall backward, hit his head on an edge on his way down, bleed out and die. The rest of the movie pretty much sees the group confined to the house as they bumble their way through badly conceived and poorly executed plans to dispose of the body.
There are also a few goofy subplots that come across as sketches that were clumsily stitched onto the proceedings to pad the runtime out to feature-length. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore, for instance, play amorous neighbours who take a shine to Blair and seem dead-set on incorporating her into their lovemaking. Even more tiresome is Peter's comparatively tame bachelor party being interrupted so he can make a long-distance drive to Miami to check on Jess.
It's not like there aren't funny moments, as that'd be all but impossible with a cast like this. Bell, in particular, takes what is probably her best role to date and makes the most of the opportunity, and McKinnon's infectious energy can't help but permeate every scene she's in. But for every funny line, there are a few that fall flat and just hang there awkwardly, especially when they're intended to score laughs at the end of scenes.
There's only so much even the best comic actors can do to elevate slight material like this. It's as if they were all incessantly flapping their wings trying to make this lame turkey fly, but despite their efforts, there's no way to get this damn thing off of the ground.