A few years ago, nobody wanted to make R-rated comedies, much less an R-rated comedy aimed a female demographic. That is, until “The Hangover” proved that R-rated comedies could still be blockbusters, and “Bridesmaids” proved that women could blow up the box office for an R-rated comedy too. So this summer, the seeds planted by those two films are coming to full bloom with “Rough Night,” which beats the upcoming “Girls Trip” starring Queen Latifah to the summer-movie punch.
“Rough Night,” which hits theaters this weekend, sticks mainly to the formula: A bunch of college friends reunite in Miami for a bachelorette blowout ahead of Jess’ (Scarlett Johansson) wedding. Along for the trip is Alice (Jillian Bell of “Saturday Night Live”), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and Jess’ Australian exchange student friend, Pippa (Kate McKinnon).
Jess is running for political office in South Carolina and is happy in her relationship with her charming but milquetoast fiancé, Peter. So she isn’t looking for a wild time in Miami. Alice, a teacher with a wild streak, a filthy mouth and no filter, and Frankie, an environmental activist who used to be in a relationship with Blair in college, are hell-bent on living out every bachelorette-party cliché no matter how obnoxious. Booze, nightclubs, cocaine and eventually strippers enter the picture and then things go hilariously and horribly wrong, and the ladies end up with a dead stripper on their hands. None of them has any interest in calling the cops or going to jail, so the ladies spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to ditch the body of the dead stripper without ruining their lives or their weekend.
Fans of McKinnon won’t be disappointed as she does her usual thing: being fully committed to her role of the wildly eccentric character who does wacky things at just the right time to spice up the sometimes-predictable laughs. There’s also a decent level of cringe humor throughout the film to keep things rolling along without getting too graphic or disgusting.
But “Rough Night” does have some unexpected bright spots. You can actually buy into Blair and Zoe’s not-quite-over-each-other relationship. There are other gay characters who, in other less-capable hands, could have ventured into the uncomfortable gay-panic scenarios but thankfully don’t. It’s also fun to see Johansson flex her comedy muscles and hold her own with some seasoned SNL vets. Peter (played by Paul W. Downs), and his wine-tasting circle of bros for life, is also a bright spot in the movie.
“Rough Night” doesn’t reinvent the wheel with the “party people going off the rails” comedy blueprint, but it does have enough heart to scratch the comedy itch if your mission this summer is to take in as many girl-power-themed films as you possibly can. Just don’t try most of what you see in the film at home, unless you have a good lawyer and lots of bail money.