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'Rough Night' Film Review: A flawed but funny, female-driven take on 'The Hangover'

June 15, 2017Ben MK

If Wonder Woman has taught Hollywood and the moviegoing public anything, it's that traditionally male-dominated genres can benefit immensely from a little female perspective. Likewise, there's a similar lesson to be gleaned from Rough Night, a raunchy, female-driven comedy that sets out to upend the genre's usual gender stereotypes — one dirty, R-rated cliché at a time.

In it, Scarlett Johansson plays career-minded workaholic Jessica Thayer, a state senate nominee who's also engaged to a great, but extremely buttoned-down guy named Peter (Paul W. Downs, who also co-wrote the film). Things weren't always this way, however. Flashback a decade and Jessica and her college posse, Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), were more concerned with frat parties than studying. Although you could argue that they were already keen on beating guys at their own game, which, back then, happened to be beer pong.

Now, with Jess' nuptials fast approaching, Alice has decided to throw her BFF a no-holds-barred sendoff, organizing for the four besties — plus Aussie free spirit, Pippa (Kate McKinnon, turning her character's over-the-top accent into a running gag) — a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami filled with cocaine, clubbing and, of course, male stripping. Their fun takes a dark and bloody turn, however, when the dude that shows up at their door ends up the wrong kind of stiff, sending the ladies into panic mode as they scramble to avoid involuntary manslaughter charges.

As if that weren't enough, the fivesome also have to deal with a couple of horny neighbors (Ty Burrell and Demi Moore) who have their eye on Blair as a potential sex partner, and they also manage to get mixed up in the aftermath of a 2-million dollar diamond heist. Meanwhile, Jess' fiancé, Peter, is enduring a little crisis of his own. And when his repeated calls to Jess' cell phone go unanswered, he does the only logical thing he can do — he stocks up on Red Bull and adult diapers (duh!) and embarks on a non-stop, cross-country road trip to win her back.

In the comedic chaos that ensues, director/co-writer Lucia Aniello (of Comedy Central's Broad City) borrows from the likes of Bridesmaids and The Hangover — with footage from Michael Bay's Bad Boys thrown in for good measure — and the outcome ranges from formulaically ho-hum to laugh-out-loud subversive. Surprisingly, though, some of the best bits of this gender-swapped Very Bad Things à la Weekend at Bernie's don't involve the top-billed stars at all, but rather Peter's misadventures with cops and gay, meth-dealing truckers along the way.

If that sounds like a lot to cram into one movie, you're absolutely on-point. Yet, even though Rough Night does suffer from some incongruent mashing-together of plot points, styles and tones, it generally proves to be more than the sum of its parts, thanks to a deliciously game cast, some hilarious, non sequitur humor and a willingness to go balls-out on its premise. Add to that the simple fact that the chemistry between Johansson, Bell, Kravitz, Glazer and McKinnon just clicks, and this is one rough night that you probably won't regret come morning.

Rough Night releases June 16th, 2017 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 41 Mins.

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