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Thursday, June 22, 2017 12:05 pm

Cast Can’t Save “Rough Night”

Taking a respite from kickin’ butt and takin’ names in a myriad of action movies, Scarlett Johansson dips her toes in the comedy pool with Lucia Aniello’s “Rough Night,” a film with some genuinely big laughs.  It also has more than a few gags that fall flat, which is regrettable as Scar Jo and her cast mates do their best to sell the moments in the script that even Olivier and Brando would have a hard time bringing to life. Still, considering the film’s subject matter, Aniello does take some risks and even succeeds in pulling off a shift in tone that more experienced directors would have a hard time executing.

Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and her crew hit the town in Rough Night.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures

Taking a page from “The Hangover,” the script by Paul W. Downs and Aniello does its level best to be as crude as movies of this ilk and that it succeeds in this is a mixed bag.  Four besties from college get together in Miami as one of them, perspective state senator Jess (Johansson), is getting married and her insecure friend Alice (the ever-irritating Jillian Bell) decides they all need one last blowout. There’s a bit of tension between former lovers Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), while Jess’ Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) rubs Alice the wrong way from the start.  The bride-to-be hopes for a quiet time catching up with her old friends, but that plan goes out the window when Alice accidentally kills a stripper they’ve hired.  The rest of their very long evening is spent trying to dispose of the body, as every one of their plans to do so goes awry.

Much of what happens before the stripper’s death is quite good as the dynamic between the five principals comes off as genuine.  Couple this with a few smart one-liners and effective pieces of physical comedy and the film seems capable of elevating itself above the similarly themed “Weekend at Bernies” (1989) and “Very Bad Things.” (1998) But as the disposal jobs get more and more ridiculous, the movie loses its way and the actresses are left to flounder.  Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as an oily couple of swingers lusting after Blair goose things along whenever they appear, but the big reveal about who the dead stripper really is simply doesn’t fly.

One of the many bad ideas at play in Rough Night.
Courtesy Columbia Pictures

It’s that kind of movie – some of it works, some it doesn’t.  Perhaps the most surprising and effective moment occurs when soon after the unfortunate death, the film’s tone shifts from lunacy to serious and back again. These transitions are handled with a deftness that’s admirable as there isn’t a false moment between them, a sense of realism created amidst the chaos.  Scenes such as this make me wish Aniello had helped fashion a better script for her game cast to tackle. 

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