It’s kind of great that raunchy, female-led comedies are their own thing now. Having grown up watching Anchorman and Dodgeball, I appreciate that teenagers today can have their equal fill of women-led gross out humor. One part Bridesmaids and one part Weekend at Bernie’s, Rough Night is enjoyable enough to get some laughs, but not nearly original enough to stick the landing.
Written and directed by Lucia Aniello from Comedy Central’s Broad City, the film fails to surpass clichés and succeeds primarily on the talents of its stellar cast. Scarlett Johansson is bride-to-be Jess, a college party girl turned hopeful state senator. She leaves behind doting and sensitive husband Peter (Paul W. Downs) for her bachelorette party in Miami with clingy elementary school teacher and BFF Alice (Jillian Bell), professional lesbian protester Frankie (Ilana Glazer), rich and high maintenance Blair (Zoe Kravitz), and Australian wildcard Pippa (Kate McKinnon with an absolutely ridiculous Australian accent). But what begins as a wild bachelorette weekend quickly gets dark and ridiculous as the girls accidentally kill their male stripper and must figure out what to do with the body.
The film’s outlandish gags are funny (the girls pile into a SmartCar and must ride with their dead stripper’s head sticking out wearing only his underwear and penis-shaped sunglasses), but it’s the more subtle jokes that pack a punch. Like the fact that the girls have a code word (tampon) for when they’re at a club and they want their friends to get rid of a skeevy guy, a thing all girl groups do. Or when Jess and her friends are early into their night of revelry and she calls Jordan, we see that his bachelor party is a WILD night of wine tasting with his similarly buttoned-up friends while the girls take shots and party in clubs. Seeing fiancée Peter freak out on the other end of the phone while Jess’s party goes off the rails is a wonderful cliché turned on its head. We’re used to women being the ones freaking out from a relaxing spa. It get even funnier when Peter’s friend admits that it was never going to work because she was so out of his league. “You’re a six. She’s a….twenty!"
The cast is a blast to watch. After making a superhero name for herself as Marvel’s Black Widow, Johansson is a delight to watch as a buttoned up campaigning senator trying to bumble her way through covering up a murder. When Jess has to play the part of action hero later in the film, it’s like watching a suburban mom version of Black Widow. Bell is in her comfort zone, making crass and sexual jokes just as easily as she did in 22 Jump Street and The Night Before, while Kravitz plays the stereotypical rich bitch perfectly, calling her famous lawyer uncle just at the right time. Glazer, known for playing Ilana on Broad City, practically reigns it in here compared to her outlandish alter ego while McKinnon does what she does best, making crazy faces and throwing out ridiculous one-liners.
Rough Night even manages to fit in some emotions. It touches on the challenges of female friendships, particularly what happens to college friends once they graduate and their lives begin to change (or not change). What happens to your friend group once you’re no longer all living on the same dorm floor? While sweet, it feels shoehorned into the rest of the comedy before the movie is quickly (like, whiplash) resolved with a magical ending where everyone lives happily ever after.
Rough Night may not be a stellar comedy, but it’s worth watching for its great cast and lady-centric humor.