Whereas makers of certain so-called comedies that will not be named tend to throw a group of funny people together and let them make things up at will, the minds behind the riotous bachelorette party comedy Rough Night take the wise route of pairing three gifted comediennes with “average Janes” Scarlett Johansson and Zoë Kravitz.
Granting Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon the opportunity to bounce jokes off two actresses not known for making people laugh — as well as providing everyone with a strong script — not only keeps the quintet’s rapport from spiraling out of control but affords Johansson and Kravitz opportunities to be funny in their own subtle ways.
Credit goes to director Lucia Aniello, a Broad City veteran who co-wrote the film with her partner Paul W. Downs, likewise pulling commendable double duty as Peter, fiancé of hardworking local government candidate Jess (Johansson).
While he and his groomsmen engage in hilariously pretentious wine tasting for his stag weekend, she and her bridesmaids head to Miami for slightly more risqué adventures.
Likable as the five women are, everyone basically plays to her individual strengths. Not much growth is evident beyond McKinnon mastering another accent as Jess’ Australian friend Pippa, whom she met during her semester abroad, but the wild child personas Bell and Glazer have crafted over the past few years have rarely been as enjoyable as channeled through cocaine-happy elementary school teacher Alice and unemployed activist Frankie, respectively.
Back together for the first time in a while, it’s a pleasure to watch these women reunite while getting severely messed up. Bonus yuks come courtesy of Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as sleazy swinger beachside neighbors and the mood remains light when Alice accidentally kills a visiting stripper, putting the impaired college friends into amateur clean-up mode.
Rough Night is so funny and competently made that it’s easy to dismiss the general lack of character development and ambiguity surrounding the group’s dynamics, specifically whether or not Blair (Kravitz) and Frankie were actually a couple or if such chatter is merely part of their playful friendship rapport until it's spelled out around the hour mark.
There also has to be a better way for characters to release their pent up frustrations with one another besides an airing of grievances — or if such a showdown must occur, at least don’t copy every previous version and set it right before the third act is about to begin.
Meager plot and characterization shortcomings aside, however, the film is a blast and another step in the right direction of more comedies starring talented female comics. Whenever you decide to see it, be sure to watch all the way through the credits — a tag scene awaits that’s fairly essential to the plot’s major loose end and is pretty great in its own regard.
Grade: B-plus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Columbia Pictures)