A rough ride

OUT NOW! "Rough Night" doesn't quite deliver on its Hangover/Bridesmaids-inspired potential, but strong female leads like Kate McKinnon keep the comedy alive.

A raunchy, female-centric comedy directed and co-written by Lucia Aniello, the talent behind TV hit Broad City? An A-list cast featuring Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell and SNL MVP Kate McKinnon? All signs pointed towards Rough Night being the comedy hit of the summer. Alas, if that’s the case, 2017 will be no vintage year.

Stop me when this sounds familiar. A group of college friends meet up for one last hurrah before their friend walks down the aisle. Their boozy, Miami-based hijinks soon go tits up when the gentleman entertainer they hired ends up redecorating their rented flat in a problematic shade of cranberry and brain. You guessed it: it’s a gender-reversed rehash of Peter Berg’s very average Very Bad Things posing as the bastard lovechild of The Hangover and Bridesmaids. But unlike those aforementioned crowd-pleasers, Rough Night fails to sustain engaging momentum, and stumbles due to stilted pacing and an uneven script that’s content to tread overly familiar ground. No risks are taken with the reheated premise, and characters never really develop beyond their basic tropes, whether that’s the straight-laced bride-to-be, the keeno teacher who clings to past glories, the lesbian activist, the uptight New Yorker or the kooky foreigner. Frustratingly, a number of scenarios promise far more than they ultimately deliver. The most egregious missed opportunity features Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as the Fleetwood Mac-loving sex pest neighbours, who are unceremoniously written out of the script once they’ve concluded their al fresco shenanigans.

Despite these pitfalls, Rough Night isn’t all bad. Several one-liners hit their mark and Kate McKinnon, while continuing her typecasting run as the go-to hire for wide-eyed nutbaggery, steals the show as the meditating Antipodean with singer-songwriter aspirations. Elsewhere, Jillian Bell proves that her deadpan antics from 22 Jump Street and The Night Before were no fluke, and helps to offset Scarlett Johansson’s noticeably weaker comic timing. It’s just hard to ignore the film’s rasping lack of personality; Aniello’s sharp comic is drowned amidst all the comedic déja-vu. You’re better off seeking out Leslye Headland’s underseen Bachelorette, which hits similar narrative beats but makes for a much tighter and far more daring comedy about women behaving badly.

Rough Night / Directed by Lucia Aniello (US 2017), with Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon. Starts Jun 29.

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