'Rough Night' Pushes Chick Flick Boundaries



Female-dominated films can’t seem to get enough of bridal parties and all the comedic fodder they hypothetically provide. 2011’s Bridesmaids established the highest of bars for just how deliciously raunchy and despicable their senses of humor can be, while maintaining a steady heartbeat throughout; minus the undercurrent of wit and genuine female friendship, you just have a mess like 2009's Bride Wars.

There’s been a steady increase in wedding-related chick flicks since Bridesmaids, but none have come close to matching the sheer entertainment value (or at least pushing as many boundaries as) the Kristen Wiig powerhouse until Rough Night, which opened areawide Friday.

After a flashback to the main characters winning a beer pong championship in college, illustrating their unbreakable bond, we jump to the present-day thirty-somethings. Alice (Jillian Bell) decides to take the gang down to Miami for Jess’ (Scarlett Johansson) bachelorette weekend. This includes their best friends, played by Ilana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz, who happen to be former lovers, and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess’ Australian pal from a semester abroad.

The titular night commences with the ladies snorting coke in a club bathroom, and turns “rough” when, hours later, an overzealous Alice jumps a Craigslist stripper. He falls off his chair, hits his head and promptly dies of the injury.

Beside the fact that murder is illegal, they’ve all got their own reasons for it being particularly not okay — running for office, engulfed in a custody battle, already has numerous strikes on their record, etc. Rather than call the police and risk getting arrested, they decide to get rid of the body (if they can figure out how).

Without the unparalleled cast, Rough Night would be an irredeemable, incoherent jumble of shock-factor-reliant humor. This film, however, has managed to assemble not only the aforementioned females but a handful of equally hilarious side characters. Colton Haynes’ bewildered stripper (not the one they inadvertently kill — another one), and Ty Burrell and Demi Moore as the groups’ polyamorous, overtly sexual neighbors only contribute to its general, raucous absurdity — in a good way.

The cast’s weakest link is, surprisingly, Johansson. Comedy is simply not her forte, and being surrounded by some of the funniest women in show business, as a stodgy politician sporting a “Can I speak with your manager?” haircut almost seems unfair. Her presence, in the midst of her friends’ shenanigans, feels like that of a Saturday Night Live guest not entirely comfortable with the content they’re presenting.

Speaking of SNL, conversely, McKinnon is indisputably the real star of the show. Sure, her over-exaggerated accent and ubiquitous Vegemite supply are a little heavy-handed, but nothing about this film is subtle. She’s pitch-perfect from the moment she appears waving in the window of a club until the final scenes, in which she bemoans the convolution of the American legal system.

Rough Night has by no means escaped all the crippling clichés and emptiness of the archetypal summer comedy, and much of its humor is not just tasteless but downright insensitive (i.e. McKinnon canoodling with a corpse and a brief airport terror gag).

But if you’re going to embrace any of this season’s comedies predestined to be terrible, give this one a shot — as long as you take it at face value, you probably won't be disappointed.

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