Starring Scarlett Johansson and Jillian Bell.
When you go to a raunchy comedy, you want it to be either stupefyingly outrageous or so terribly awful that you laugh at not only the crudeness but also at the stupidity of the movie itself—and at yourself, for even watching it (hayyyy, Baywatch). Rough Night lands in the awkward middle-ground of mediocrity. While it may intimate aspirations of a female take on the likes of The Hangover, the movie shies away from going to the extremities it promises by playing it too safe. Instead, it comes off a romcom unwillingly shoved into territory it's too vanilla to feel truly at home in.
Tellingly, the story starts with first-year college roommates Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and Alice (Jillian Bell) aiming to beat frat boys at a beer pong championship, cheered on by their same-sex couple friends Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz).
A decade later, the foursome reunite. Frankie is a single lesbian activist, Blair is waging a custody war with her husband she's divorcing, Jess is running for state senator and engaged to Peter (Paul W. Downs), and Alice is a school teacher. The needy, controlling, and horny Alice, however, remains the sole woman-child party animal who drags the group back into their old shenanigans when she micromanages a bachelorette weekend in Miami for Jess.
Johansson, Glazer, and Kravitz are all amiable performers, but their roles and performances are more suited to dramedy. Consequently, the three type-drawn characters set up a lot of jokes that Bell as Alice does her best to, but isn't always on point to, spike. That leaves the bulk of the comedic work up to a delayed entry by Saturday Night Live's talented Kate McKinnon to work overtime in the laugh department as Jess' Australian friend Pippa. McKinnon infuses much-needed manic energy into the often-flat proceedings.
They hire a male stripper to entertain and loosen up the now-conservative Jess, but when he accidentally dies, the girls fly into a freakout frenzy. What follows are efforts to deal with the situation through trial and error. With the group repeatedly set back to their starting point, the overall jocular momentum never really gains ground. An escapade involving slimy, polygamous neighbours (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) adds to the awkwardness of their situation but doesn't really contribute any guffaws.
The bachelor party of Jess' fiancé, Peter, is played for gender-reversal laughs that are too tame in this post-metrosexual era and, again, don't go far enough. For instance, it's not that unexpected to see bookish, average lads trying to discern the flavour profiles of wine whereas more exaggerated versions of masculinity would be.
Things hit start to hit a stride when long-simmering tensions within the group rise to the surface. When the action finally takes off, the pacing breaks free from its circuitous start-stop loop. After all, it's the hyperpacing of screwball and grossout comedies that pummels narrative events through so fast that any dropped jokes are quickly forgotten, whereas here, things like sloppy comedic editing, missed comedy beats, and unfunny gag props like penis glasses tend to linger like B.O. on a bus with all the windows closed on a rainy day—which, in Vancouver, is basically all year long (pew) so we're overly familiar with that. We need some fresh air. (Literally.)
While it's always great to see a gang of women getting out there, Lucia Aniello's direction and screenwriting (with the previously mentioned Downs) is too overly preoccupied with competing against men to play the game on her own terms by doing her own thing. After all, the last thing you want on a night out is having someone constantly holding you back from having a satisfyingly bad time.