Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rough Night

1.5/4

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Illana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs

Rated R for Crude Sexual Content, Language Throughout, Drug Use and Brief Bloody Images

My brother's bachelor party last year went off without a hitch, thank you very much.  We and a few of his friends went to Nashville for some partying, go karts and good food.  I suppose I should be grateful for that.  I could have been as unfortunate as Scarlett Johansson: trapped in a bad SNL skit that won't end with four irritating shrews and a dead body.

Jess (Johansson) is stressed out.  She's running behind in the polls for a Senate seat (despite the fact that her competitor has taken the Anthony Wiener method of getting himself on the front page) and her bachelorette party is this weekend.  Nevertheless, she decides to go to Miami with her college friends: the awkward and in-your-face Alice (Bell), the rich bitch Blair (Kravitz), the lesbo activist Frankie (Glazer) and the blonde from down under Pippa (McKinnon).  The wedding party goes off without much fanfare except when Frankie decides to get a stripper.  When he shows up, he gets too frisky with Jess.  Alice is okay with getting laid by a stripper from Craigslist and hops on his lap.  But the big girl accidentally knocks him over and he hits his head on a counter.  Now the group has a dead body on their hands and has to figure out what to do about it.

"Rough Night" makes the common mistake of many comedies these days: it thinks that crude and/or awkward equal hilarious.  Well, they can.  Just look at "Liar Liar."  But that movie had scenes that were set up, it had a point of view, and it had characters that acted in outrageous ways only because the situations they found themselves in were illogical.  It also had good comic timing and Jim Carrey's manic energy.

It wouldn't surprise me if this movie didn't have a script.  It sounds improvised which is not a good idea for a movie.  It's fine for a line or two, but movies are not stand-up acts (something that Seth Rogen has yet to grasp).  Movies require storylines and characters.  They have to have comic tension.  There has to be a set-up before a joke.  Merely saying something weird isn't funny.  That's why "Rough Night" is unbearably lame while "Ted" was hilarious.  I wish Hollywood would stop being so lazy and actually write comic screenplays.  Fully improvised movies are never any good, and are usually downright awful (remember "Fist Fight?").

Scarlett Johansson is too talented for this material.  Easily one of the smartest and most alluring actresses working today, ScarJo probably saw the chance to let loose and have some fun.  But she's the highest paid actress in Hollywood.  This movie's production marched to her beat.  Why didn't she insist on some rewrites?  Why did she choose a screenplay that is this bland and tired?  She does what she can, and understands the concept of comic timing, but she is buried alive in all the failed humor and sitcom-like plot developments.

She is not helped by her supporting cast.  Her movie BFFs are either boring, irritating, or both.  Jillian Bell appears to be trying to ape Melissa McCarthy's "Bridesmaids" persona, but lacks McCarthy's comic energy and jolliness.  There's no zany edge to her performance.  Zoe Kravitz and Illana Glazer do their best to blend into the background, probably because they realize that appearing in this movie is a bad career move.  The best I can say about Kate McKinnon is that she sports a flawless Aussie accent.  Ty Burrell and Demi Moore show up for two scenes as uninhibited neighbors, but they come across as creepy rather than funny.  Their scenes fall uncomfortably flat.  The comic potential in contrasting the wildness of the bachelorette party with Jess's fiancĂ© Peter (Downs) and his gay (?) bachelors subdued night out is wasted.  Or his adventures trying to get to Miami, which is because of a misunderstanding that's so dumb it surpasses the bar set by even bottom of the barrel comedies like this.

In addition to having bad material, co-writer/director Lucia Aniello fails at even the basic mechanics of comedy.  She has little concept of comic timing. there's no comic tension in most of the set pieces, and it runs on for far too long.  She can boast an amusing moment or two here and there, but for the most part the film never does anything edgy or unexpected enough to be funny.  Only the climax, which involves the bachelorette party, a second stripper and two cops, has any momentum, but barely enough for a Friday morning sitcom.

Trust me.  Avoid "Rough Night."

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