Thu, 07 Sept 2017
Rough Night (15)
Running time 1hr 41min
IT’S always great to see woman-fronted comedy in the spotlight, but the Scarlett Johansson-starring Rough Night is no
Bridesmaids, with a dark edge that veers wildly between minor ingenuity and sorority-gal mean-spiritedness. While there’s fun to be had with the ink-black premise, the glitzy presentation deprives it of any especially subversive dimensions; by the end, we’re firmly in Hangover territory, with all the gross-out triteness (and, of course, the guilty laughs) that necessarily come with that dubious honour.
To be fair, the rickety screenplay, entailing a predictable string of ‘filthy’ gags, is buoyed by a stellar cast, as bride-to-be Jess (Johansson) takes to the streets of Miami with girlfriends Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Alice (Jillian Bell) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) in what promises to be a dissolute, druggy weekend. Soon, however, the antics of saucy Alice lands them the body of a dead stripper (Ryan Cooper). Hilarity ensues.
Rough Night gets its mission statement in early on, with several spectacularly sordid setups leaving us in no doubt as to the scatological capacities of the female of the species; unfortunately, it’s never content to move beyond that. The funniest material (pop culture riffs, some toe-curling interpersonal jabs) is all on the periphery, while it packs in more than enough cheap smut and profanity to satisfy the 21st-century date-night crowd. To its credit, it places itself above the bulk of its macho contemporaries in eschewing biofluid dependence, but the tone really isn’t MUCH above that sort of fare. In fact, it very much feels like a studio-engineered attempt to outdo the menfolk on their own turf; while that concept alone offers some captivating possibilities (in one of the more pleasantly amusing segments, Paul W Downs’ fiancé escapes his bachelor party largely unscathed), Rough Night mostly fails to deliver the goods, settling into the familiar, uneven routine we’ve all seen a million times before.
But this isn’t the first time the leading ladies of Hollywood have sought to take on the bad boys, so let’s set the record straight: Rough Night is infinitely better than Cameron Diaz’s noxious vehicles (*cough* Bad Teacher *splutter*). Bell is, without a doubt, the movie’s selling point – having cameoed in virtually every naughty farce of the past five years, she reveals herself here to be a stick of foul-mouthed dynamite, carrying all the key sequences with her own brand of raucous energy (which isn’t to say the rest of the gang aren’t on superb form). But, once it’s got its big set- piece out of the way, you’ll likely find yourself craving the intimacy of Trainwreck, or even the warmth of Bad Moms.