So far 2017 has had little success when it comes to comedy gold. Hoping to change that trend is “Rough Night” a dark comedy film featuring an all star female cast at a bachelorette party gone wrong. Sadly “Rough Night” isn’t quite the comedy gem it hopes to be, featuring clichéd jokes, overdone sex-based puns, and a lack of creativity. “Rough Night” is a rough ride, even if it’s a mildly entertaining one.
“Rough Night” follows a group of five friends for a bachelorette getaway as Scarlett Johansson’s bride-to-be and aspiring politician Jess is joined by Ilana Glazer’s political activist Frankie, Zoe Kravitz’s fashionable real estate expert Blair, the sexually repressed and possessive teacher and Jess’s college best friend Alice played by Jillian Bell, and Jess’s foreign friend Pippa played by Kate McKinnon with an Australian accent. The five engage in debauchery before inviting a stripper to the party who Alice proceeds to accidentally kill. As the ladies try to figure out what to do, having moved the body and corrupted the “crime” scene, a series of comedic situations play out as they try to escape jail time while also reestablishing their bond as friends after years apart.
When I first saw the previews for this film I had an image in my mind of a female oriented “Weekend At Bernie’s”. However, this is no “Weekend At Bernie’s” as much as it honestly tries to be. The main issue with “Rough Night” is that it’s not really all that funny, at least not all the way through, and lacks and real creativity, leaning heavily on tired and old jokes that we’ve all seen before. It has moments of hilarity that stand out, but for the most part it’s a collection of clichéd, sexually oriented puns and gags that were adjusted for a female-centric cast and viewing audience. It’s just not that unique or funny.
Part of this is probably because the cast is a mixed bag. We have five actresses that are all very different and thus approach the concept of comedy in very different ways. While this could normally make for an interesting dynamic, here it only creates a muddled collection of different styles that don’t meld, don’t blend, and all feel like their competing against each other for supremacy. Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Kravitz, the only two non-comedians in the female group, are actually the brightest stars in this film with Kravitz showing off her ability to engage in dry humor, especially when she is forced into a threesome with the next door neighbors which is one of the highlight scenes of the entire movie. Johansson, while clearly out of place in a film well below her talent level, manages to be a good grounding character. This film allows her to really present her acting range to its fullest as we see her engage in more playful banter rather than the action-packed or dry performances she has come to be known for lately.
The irony is when you look at the other three actresses who specialize in comedy, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, and Jillian Bell, none of them are all that funny. I give Glazer some credit for bringing a few chuckles and fully embracing her obnoxious anti-government persona, but in the end it’s still a character completely built on clichés with little creativity behind who she is and her motives for being that person. McKinnon, who is actually one of my personal favorite’s in modern comedy, has a rare miss here as she attempts to fake an Australian accent and overplays it to death. Ironically her character talks about cultural sensitivity at one point in the film, but here all she seems to be is a mockery of the Australian culture and it would have been so much more amusing in my opinion to see a legitimate Australian take on the role rather than watch an ironic performance unfold from an otherwise spot-on comedic talent. Jillian Bell was the lowest point of this film for me in terms of the leading ladies. I can appreciate her not-so-unique brand of over-the-top comedy but while her character is supposed to be a possessive and annoying pain there are few redeeming qualities despite the movie’s attempts to make us feel for her in the closing act. In a word, she’s just downright annoying.
But, I don’t want to sit here and say this film wasn’t funny at all. It has its moment, as ridiculous as they are. I must admit I chuckled, and outright laughed a few times in this movie and for what it is “Rough Night” does its best with the material written for the film. But it’s just not enough to bring it above mediocrity. In the end “Rough Night” is not a downright absolutely terrible film…but it’s not a good film either. It’s as average as modern comedic productions can get really and panders to a specific audience looking for a specific kind of entertainment, which is great and all but while it might translate at the box office it doesn’t make for a quality film. “Rough Night” falls into the rut many comedies have fallen into in recent years, leaning on the same old techniques to try and bring an easy laugh with the same old tired material we’ve all come to appreciate. Bot no matter how funny a single joke is, you tell it enough times and it loses its luster.
As I said in the beginning “Rough Night” is a rough experience. If you want a few easy chuckles and you don’t take films as seriously as I do then you might actually enjoy this film, but “Rough Night” does require a very loose sense of humor to completely embrace and appreciate. It’s not for everyone, but it will probably work well for those who are into its overdone brand of dark comedy. For me though, “Rough Night” was only a mildly entertaining experience that features few creative laughs, annoying characters, and a ridiculous plot that never really pays off in the end. Formulaic in almost every sense of the word, “Rough Night” is just one more miss in a year where comedy films just can’t seem to find their footing.