Unfunny, contrived comedies with boorish, cartoonish characters have been a Hollywood staple for decades. Rough Night continues that tradition, but with a woman director (Lucia Aniello) and a mostly female cast.
Scarlett Johansson plays an young woman running for office and about to get married. Her party animal best friend from college (Jillian Bell) has organized a bachelorette party in Miami for her. Joining in are two other college friends (Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz), as well as Johansson’s Australian friend (Kate McKinnon).
Things go wrong almost immediately when a coked-up Bell accidentally kills a male stripper. They then panic and make a series of incredibly nonsensical decisions in what plays like a cross between Very Bad Things and Weekend at Bernie’s (a terrible movie and an ok movie).
The problem is that most comedy, even farce, needs to be grounded in something resembling reality. Comedy comes from people making at least somewhat sensible decisions only to see them backfire in unexpected ways. Comedy comes from characters who seem like real people placed in difficult situations. But Rough Night hinges on ludicrous decisions and an endless series of predictable, uninspired gross-out gags. Of the characters, only Kravitz and Glazer (as former girlfriends) have anything that even sort of seems like an actual relationship. McKinnon’s character is nothing more than a collection of quirks and Bell’s character exists only to be obnoxious and provocative. Johansson is left to be the bland straight woman.
Increased representation for woman directors and women in comedy is a great thing, but adding to Hollywood’s never-ending pile of crass, unfunny comedies is not.