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Blu-ray Review: Rough Night

September 20, 2017

By John Corrado

★½ (out of 4)

Jess (Scarlett Joahnsson) is about to get married in the middle of her election campaign for senate, when Alice (Jillian Bell) and her other college friends Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) decide to throw her a wild bachelorette party in Miami.  Jess’s Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) is also along for the trip, leading Alice to worry that her role as the best friend is threatened.

They party, get drunk, and do drugs, but the night takes a different turn when the stripper (Ryan Cooper) they hire accidentally gets killed.  So they try desperately to cover it up and hide his body, not wanting to face the consequences of murder, seeming to fear more for their own reputations than for the loss of human life.

The biggest problem with Rough Night, other than the fact that it simply isn’t very funny, is that the tone is all over the place.  The film sets itself up as a wild party movie, before lurching into a “hide the body” comedy, and it isn’t lurid enough nor fully committed to its premise for the dark humour to really work.  When you add in the awkward attempts at character drama in the bonding moments between the friends, Rough Night never comes together.  It’s telling that, for a film focused on party antics, the most amusing moments actually involve Jess’s fiancé (Paul W. Downs), and his tame bachelor party at a wine tasting.

What we are left with is a film that plays like an unruly cross of Weekend at Bernie’s, The Hangover and Bridesmaids, but it lacks all of the elements that worked about those far superior films.  The characters here simply aren’t well enough written or likeable enough for us to ever really care about them, and they frustratingly face no real consequences for their actions.  Yet the film isn’t even brave enough to follow through on its own sordid premise, with a cheap twist in the last act that feels like a cop out.

Scarlett Johansson tries her damnedest to salvage the film, but her talents feel wasted on material this uninspired.  Jillian Bell has a gift for delivering offbeat one-liners, but doesn’t have much to work with here.  Kate McKinnon really feels like she needs to get some new schtick, because her character is basically the same sort of quirky oddball who says and does weird things that she always plays, just this time with a bad Australian accent.  Take her character from the Ghostbusters reboot, change the voice, and you get exactly the role she plays here.

I have a very simple criteria for judging comedies; if one makes me laugh out loud more than once and raises a few smiles, then it gets a pass, or at the very least a mild recommendation.  On this scale, Rough Night rarely if ever made me laugh out loud, and it’s too much of a scattershot mess to recommend, never entirely nailing its tone and almost always feeling like a cheap riff on better movies.

The Blu-ray also includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, two extra scenes featuring the film’s sex-obsessed neighbours (Ty Burell and Demi Moore), as well as the featurettes Killer Cast, which shows the actors praising each other’s work; The Dynamic Duo: Lucia and Paul, focusing on director Lucia Aniello and co-writer and actor Paul W. Downs; Playing Dead, which sheds some light on Ryan Cooper’s mostly still performance; and Do a Little Dance, which focuses on a dance scene in the film.

Rough Night is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release.  It’s 101 minutes and rated 14A.

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