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Rough Night ••

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz
Director: Lucia Aniello
Screenplay: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs
Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: June 16, 2017



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, was it kind of rough watching this next movie?

It was truly a “rough night” for me sitting in the theater waiting for this movie to end. Let’s recap:

We meet four women who ten years earlier were hard-partying college friends at George Washington University. Their names are Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Ilana Glazer). The four are now planning a weekend of debauchery to celebrate Jess’s impending marriage to Peter (Paul W. Downs). A male stripper arrives at their rented beach house, and when Alice jumps on top of the man, his head hits the fireplace hearth, killing him

Hilarity ensues as Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) joins the crew and the women decide to hide the body – because if there’s no body, there’s no murder. They try to dispose of the body in the ocean only to find that they’ve been recorded on security cameras. Meanwhile, Peter and his straight-laced buddies are having a wine-tasting bachelor party. Jess phones Peter and he misunderstands her to say that the engagement is off. So he packs a load of disposable diapers, Red Bull, and ADHD meds and makes an all-night trip to Florida to save his marriage.

Greg, I wish hilarity had ensued. All that ensued for me was disappointment. Clearly this film showcases a lot of talent in the form of Kate MCKinnon, Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, and several others, not to mention a good director and writing team. Yet the final product is reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s lesser movies. Many IQ points were lost in the viewing of this film, and if that comes across in my review here, then I apologize. This movie is a giant underachievement from which I’m still recovering.

Recently, I gave a negative review to a similar movie, Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. Self-honesty demands that I ask myself whether I have a prejudice against female comedy ensembles. I hope not. My goal is to be ill-disposed toward bad comedies, regardless of gender. Looking back at my reviews of the latter Hangover movie installments and Adam Sandler throwaways, I think it’s pretty clear that I hate any bad comedy that relies solely on raunchiness for humor.

I think we differed on Snatched, Scott, but we agree on this film. Just because a film is written, directed, and stars a majority female cast does not automatically make it a great film. The writing team of Lucia Aniello and  Paul W. Downs have done hilarious work on “Broad City.” That series showcased the comedic talents of Abbi Jacobson and  Ilana Glazer (Glazer plays Frankie in this film) and is regarded as one of the great situation comedies of recent years and a landmark in female comedy. Rough Night has none of that.

I’m also perplexed by Kate McKinnon as an actress. She’s great in SNL’s sketch comedy. She creates weird and wonderful characters. But in both Rough Night and last year’s Ghostbusters, she created a throwaway character who is an outsider from the ensemble. I fully believe that if the Aussie character of Pippa had been removed from Rough Night no one would have noticed. It’s almost as if she were brought in at the last minute and just told to mug at the camera.

At least this movie attempts to show personal growth among the characters. While dealing with the crisis of how to dispose of a dead body, Jess and Alice work out the angst of their friendship. Jess evolves from being a deadly dull political candidate who no one wants to vote for to being the cool hip candidate whom everyone loves.

As a result of this ordeal, Jess and her boyfriend Peter also experience a deepening of their commitment to each other. Alice and the cop stripper each realize they’re looking to settle down and they begin to fall in love. We also saw significant transformations in Snatched, another movie that I disliked, which proves that transformation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for good storytelling.

I felt the ensemble cast was well constructed. Everyone had something they wanted. Alice wanted to regain her partying days from College. Frankie and Blair had an underlying romantic interest. And Jess wanted to enjoy herself away from the hassles of the campaign. Each character had a personality flaw that needed addressing. And they all learned something in the end. Except Pippa. She didn’t seem to transform anyone, be transformed by anyone, learn anything, or solve any problems.

For a dull, predictable, penis-filled 120 minutes I can only garner 2 Reels out of 5 for Rough Night. The ensemble heroes were adequate but not exciting. I give them just 2 Heroes out of 5. And the transformations were tacked on for good show. Just 2 Deltas out of 5.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

You’ve pretty much summed up my sentiments, Greg. Rough Night is a ‘tough blight’ on the film industry, a silly, inconsequential, and not-so-funny comedy that wasted the talents of its cast and wasted my time in the theater — although I did enjoy eating my cookie-dough bites. The less said, the better, really, so let’s just give be generous and give this movie 2 Reels, 2 Heroes, and 2 transformation Deltas out of 5. Let’s hurry onto the next movie, please!

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

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