Rough Night: Not Rough at All

Rough Night Plot Summary:

In the middle of an intense senate race, Jess (Scarlett Johansson) reunites with her raucous college buddies for her bachelorette party.  After a night of partying, everything goes wrong when the male stripper (Ryan Cooper) they hire accidentally croaks, leading to a series of zany solutions as they try to cover it all up.

Maybe it’s because the last comedy I saw was Baywatch and a piece of romaine lettuce would have seemed funnier by comparison, but Rough Night was a fairly enjoyable little romp.  While I would recommend this film, nothing about it made me fall to the floor laughing, but nothing really bombed either.  It’s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of comedies – it’s fine. Where this movie works is the likability and chemistry of its cast.

We focus on five main ladies, and they all have distinct personalities, falling into the usual Hangover-esque tropes.  There’s the driven career woman who needs more fun in her life (Johansson). The activist anarchist (Ilana Glazer). The seemingly perfect human being who’s practically a model (Zoe Kravitz). The oddball foreigner (Kate McKinnon). And of course, the wild and crazy Zach Galifianakis/Rob Corddry of the group, played by Jillian Bell. They are all likable, and you buy into their friendship. That’s why the movie works. From the trailers, you’d think the obvious breakout character would be Jillian Bell, but surprisingly, she’s one of the weaker parts.

That isn’t to say Bell’s performance isn’t good, but she actually takes a backseat to some of the other characters. While she’s built up as the Zach Galifianakis early on, they give her more of an emotional core as the film goes along. They strip away her zany outbursts and focus on an actual friendship between her and Scarlett Johansson. It’s the typical “we’re growing apart” theme we’ve seen a hundred times. It’s hard to take the heavy material seriously though amongst a plot that involves trying to dispose of a male stripper’s body in the ocean. Like many comedies today, it comes across as uneven. For the most part though, this aspect of the film is competently told.

The best comedic bits come from Kate McKinnon. Shocker. McKinnon plays Pippa, Jess’ Australian semester aboard friend (we all have one). At first, the character didn’t do much for me. It was just McKinnon talking in an Australian accent. As the movie goes along though, she gets funnier and funnier. Even the accent gets more hilarious. McKinnon is an exceptionally talented comedic performer. There’s a script somewhere in the bowels of Hollywood where an Austin Powers/Anchorman-like character is waiting for Kate McKinnon.  Unfortunately, with comedy being what it is today (absolutely pathetic), McKinnon’s potential is truly being wasted.

Ilana Glazer is no doubt another crowd pleaser here. The anti-establishment anarchist has been done to death, but Glazer brings such an energy, you forgive it. The script wisely has her poke fun at herself, making for a truly layered performance. While the real meat of the film is the conflict between Scarlett Johansson and Jillian Bell, it’s the on again/off again romantic relationship between Glazer and Zoe Kravitz that surprisingly grabs you. They have a true bond here, and it’s actually something that could work in another film altogether on a deeper level. It’s a nice side story here though.

Speaking of Zoe Kravitz, I give her a lot of credit here. This is a difficult role to play. She doesn’t have the zany ticks that the other characters have. In addition to Johannsson, she’s the true straight man role, if you will. Kravitz plays this in a truly endearing fashion. She has a ton of charisma, despite the fact that she doesn’t get the whacky traits of her other cast mates. She’s shown in other movies like X-Men: First Class that she can elevate mediocre characters. We should definitely be seeing more of this actress.

While the movie has very little LOL moments, its cleverness does seep in from time to time. While this completely bonkers bachelorette party is going on, its juxtaposed with the lamest bachelor party of all time. It’s like if a Bizarro Barney Stinson had a bachelor party. This was pretty damn funny, and really clever. The subtle anti-tropes they play off of from a bro’s party weekend was very smart. Credit to Paul W. Downs, who plays Peter, Scarlett Johansson’s fiancé (he also co-wrote the film).  He gave an excellent performance. While his storyline gets a little weird and random, he really sells it. His supporting cast of “party dudes” also do an excellent job.

The movie is littered with solid cameos all around. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore play sex crazed deviants and are really charming at it. Dean Winters also comes in at the end and is fairly amusing. You may not recognize that name, but trust me, you know who Dean Winters is (Dennis Duffy in 30 Rock).

This movie could have been a lot better. It’s almost like the writers saw they had a good script and then said, “Eh, this is fine.” It’s getting a higher grade from me just because of how much better this is than many other comedies by comparison. That’s where we are now with this genre. At the end of the day though, this is an extremely likable cast with a lot of heart, and it leaves you with a good feeling at the theater.  It’s not gang buster laughs, but it’s solid.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.