If you need a brisk laugh at the movies, Rough Night certainly does the job. Although the critical response has been mixed and the box office came in well below expectations over the weekend, it’s a comedy that is worthy of your attention. Most of the traction it gains is from the chemistry of its cast which seems to go all in the the premise which is a bit of Very Bad Things, Bridesmaids & The Hangover. Hell, we even get a bit of a 2017 spin on Weekend at Bernie’s which generates a few laughs.
For bride-to-be Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and her four friends, Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoe Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), it’s off to Miami and a weekend of sun, strippers, coke, and booze. But Murphy is along for the ride, ready to employ his law, and things start going wrong almost immediately. Soon the group is stuck with a dead body with nowhere to hide it. Jess’ fiancé, Peter (Paul W. Downs), thinks she has broken up with him long-distance. And the sex-crazed neighbors (Demi Moore & Ty Burrell) want a threesome with Blair.
Director Lucia Aniello, making her feature debut and working from a script she co-wrote with Paul W. Downs (who appears in the film as Peter), thankfully avoid an endless reliance on bodily fluid humor. There is one gag that involves vomit but films like these tend to double down on situations that will gross us out and Rough Night tends to avoid that for the most part, which is very refreshing. The movie gets raunchy at times and, yes, some of the comedy is uneven but the jokes that do work get big laughs and make up for some of the misses.
There’s enough variety here that everyone’s funny bone should be tickled frequently during the film’s runtime. There’s gross stuff, smart stuff, slapstick, dead body abuse, sex, and drug addled behavior. Some of the cleverest material involves cross-cutting between the women’s off-the-wall bachelorette party and the guys’ mellow reflection (which involves wine tasting before devolving into a shopping spree for adult diapers). There are some moments of girl bonding and brief moments of melodrama but the film knows it’s a comedy and rarely tries to be anything else but that. I always hate when R-rated comedies shoehorn in a cheesy message or goes soft and Rough Night really doesn’t do that.
The cast is top notch with all the girls playing off each other very well. Scarlett Johansson, who has of late been spending a lot of time in superhero and sci-fi flicks, gets a chance to hone her comedy chops. She has shown good comedic timing before (in the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! For example) and it’s in evidence here. All of the women get at least one opportunity to shine, althoughKate McKinnon is guilty of frequent scene-stealing and it’s greatly appreciated. She gets the best moments and the best line and doesn’t waste an opportunity when she’s front and center. Much like in last year’s Ghostbusters, she probes she is one to watch. The only living male of note is Downs, who is hilariously over-the-top during his solo road trip. Ryan Cooper plays a dead body, which is almost certainly more difficult than it looks and I think he deserves his own kudos for being game with it from start to finish.
All I really need from a comedy is for it to make me laugh. Rough Night has its flaws and is a bit uneven at times but the laughs come frequently and I was won over by the cast and their chemistry. It may not go down as a comedic classic, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome and it does what it is intended to do.