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The bachelor party movie isn't a new phenomenon, as The Hangover trilogy, Very Bad Things, and even Bachelor Party have all tread the same ground of the perils of commitment, and getting into some serious trouble before that big walk down the aisle. So on the outside, Rough Night seems like a derivation of that mashup, and to a certain extent, you'd be right. But despite the missteps that director and co-writer Lucia Aniello's film directing debut partakes in, the project truly shines through its well-assembled ensemble, and some seriously funny gags.
Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is poised on the edge of two life choices: she's about to get married, and she's running for political office. As if that wasn't enough pressure, she's about to embark on a bachelorette weekend with her best friends (Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz, and Kate McKinnon) that takes a pretty dark turn. Like, "accidentally kill a stripper, and wind up trying to cover it up" dark. If they can pull it off, they just might save their friendship.
Let's get the unpleasant stuff out of the way: Rough Night unceremoniously borrows its basic premise from Peter Berg's Very Bad Things, and mixes in a lot of notes and gags that The Hangover put to good use. Specifically, Jillian Bell's Alice is clearly the Alan of the group, as she tries to insult and berate Kate McKinnon's Pippa throughout a good portion of the film. As if that wasn't enough, there's a post credits scene that literally sings about the crazy stuff you've seen go down through the whole film, which totally doesn't bring "Stu's Song" to mind at all. Sadly, when Rough Night stumbles, you can feel it like a knock to the head.
The biggest stumbling blocks for Rough Night come from pretty original places though, as the plot almost derails itself by making some odd choices in terms of tone. The accidental murder itself is played pretty seriously, despite trying to keep the dialogue in the funny and quotable range, with the dire soundtrack for the scene driving a wedge between the intention and the reality. Not to mention, there are some last-minute developments surrounding friendship drama, and a third act villain, that could have been integrated better in a more evenly toned and paced film.
However, despite the mistakes that Rough Night partakes in, it manages to use its cast to great effect, maximizing the laughs that the film does manage to pull off. Scarlett Johansson's straight woman to the crazy antics of her friends is a solid anchor to a pretty unhinged universe, and everyone gets their own special brand of crazy to shine with. And while it's hard to pick any MVPs from this comedy dream team, I can't help but say that Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon are tied for those honors, as they really commit to their insanity. While this film doesn't have as many quotable lines as other films of its ilk would boast, the personalities of the characters are what really make Rough Night worth the ride.
Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs are primarily known for their work on Broad City, but even if you're not a fan of that particular show (and, admittedly, I am not) you shouldn't have a hard time enjoying Rough Night. While the film tries to skew heavily towards its intended demographic, there's still fun to be had by all. If you've got a group of girlfriends anxious to know if this should be a movie date, you can rest assured that you're going to get exactly what you came for. But as for anyone else, Rough Night could be the comedy surprise of the summer, which is definitely worth the time and oxygen it takes to laugh.