Cinematic Releases: Rough Night (2017) - Reviewed

Broad City and Time Traveling Bong sitcom co-creator and frequent writer-producer-director Lucia Aniello makes her big screen debut in the director’s chair with the screwball dark comedy Rough Night. 

Aided by her co-producer, writer, business partner and star Paul W. Downs, the film stars Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz as five friends who after a ten-year hiatus reunite for a bachelorette party weekend in Miami, Florida.  After a long night of boozing, marijuana and cocaine, the gang hires a male stripper who in the throes of hard partying accidentally kill him. 

Think Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things with the aesthetic and comic sensibilities of your typical Paul Feig romcom and even room to rip jokes off Weekend at Bernie’s, the film is part raunchy sex and partying comedy/part darkly comic thriller as the girls frantically try to cover their tracks.  Unlike Berg’s film, however, this Sony Pictures comedy is more or less a kinder-gentler The Hangover with plenty of attitude and off-color humor but a fraction of either of the aforementioned films’ edginess. 

Boasting Johansson and Bell as the film’s most overqualified cast members and an electronic soundtrack by Skrillex and Nicolas Winding Refn regular Cliff Martinez, Rough Night is mostly a lot of stuff we’ve seen many times over already with some occasionally funny but mostly tiresome gags.  Bell is funny as always, picking up where she left off with her neurotic and foul mouthed teacher in Fist Fight but McKinnon does yet another riff on Holtzmann from Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot because, hey, what didn’t work there might work here?  It’s a grating and often unfunny performance which sadly undermines the talents of Johansson and Bell.  Paul W. Downs as the fiancé does his best to add a drunk and stoned knight-in-shining-armor subplot to the proceedings which plays even heavier on the men-in-underwear gag than Iñárritu’s Birdman did. 

Getting ready to make some wild porn!!!
Though many still have less than kind things to say about Very Bad Things and other like-minded hiding dead body comedies, part of the hook that film had was the swiftness with which it offed characters in abrupt and increasingly shocking ways.  Not unlike the television shows Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, no one was safe and everyone could die a horrific death at any moment, but with Rough Night, that overarching tension played for awkward and discomfiting laughter isn’t anywhere to be seen or felt.  Despite a couple attempts at uncomfortable dark humor involving the girls’ unwanted cadaver on their hands and some goofy sexual encounters along the way, Rough Night comes off as an oddly safe and forgettable romcom and therefore becomes tedious as we’re taken through every bridesmaid romantic comedy cliché in the book.  


- Andrew Kotwicki