On one hand, “Rough Night” seems like the standard summer shenanigans movie, a mash-up of “Bridesmaids” and “My Weekend with Bernie.” There’s an out-of-control bachelorette party, some loud sex, a dead stripper, an unconscious stripper, crude jokes and lots of drugs and alcohol.
On the other hand, there’s an admirable display of sexual diversity in both the cast and the script. Two of the five members of the bachelorette party are a former lesbian couple. There’s the wacky swinging bisexual couple (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) next door; they’re a little creepy, but they serve the purpose of true love. The groom-to-be helps two gay men to hook up. Two of the cast members (Kate McKinnon and Colton Haynes) are openly gay, but play straight characters.
For Hollywood, that’s noteworthy progress.
Written by Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs and directed by Aniello, “Rough Night” is about the wild bachelorette party for Jess (Scarlet Johansson) set up by her rather desperate college friend Alice (Jillian Bell). The party also includes Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz), who were lovers when they were all in college 10 years ago, and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess’ friend from Australia. They all meet up in Miami at an immaculate beach house owned by one of Jess’ donors (she’s running for state senate).
Hijinks ensue when two strippers show up (one’s not really a stripper). One is Colton Haynes; the other is not. One ends up unconscious. The other ends up dead and the bridal party decides to dump his body instead of calling the police.
Meanwhile, the bachelor party is a much more subdued affair where Peter (Paul W. Downs) and his groomsmen enjoy a wine tasting led by a droll Daniel Raymont. Their civilized affair is disrupted when a dropped call from Jess leads Peter to think the wedding is off. He decides to “go astronaut” and heads to Miami with boxes of adult diapers and Red Bull (Google Lisa Nowak for more details).
More hijinks ensue, but everything ends up happily at a foam party.
The story is not very believable, which becomes distracting. The accidental murder of the stripper gets written off too quickly and rather lightly. The drug use is wildly exaggerated and doesn’t really fit into the plot. Pippa’s character is awkwardly wedged into the story and McKinnon’s accent veers all over the place.
But more importantly, the movie’s nearly not as funny as it should be. There are a lot of great gags, but the pacing is slack. Some of the acting is great (Glazer and Kravitz are wonderful together and Downs is a riot), but most of the cast members seem to be acting in different movies. The overall tone is uneven, an uneasy blend of raunch and sticky sentimentality. The parts don’t really fit together well.
Despite all of this, fans of the popular show “Broad City” (once a webcast, now part of the Comedy Central line-up) are likely to be big fans of “Rough Night.” After all, Glazer is the creator and star of the show. Downs is a writer and series regular, Aniello has written and directed several episodes. But, unfortunately, their television success hasn’t created movie magic yet. Hopefully, their next movie will be stronger and funnier.
For moviegoers who aren’t fans of “Broad City,” “Rough Night” may be a rough night.