Take top female talent from Broad City and SNL, apply it to a raunchy bridesmaids-gone-wild premise, and expectations are set for a funny, feminist take on The Hangover.
Would you settle for Weekend at Bernie’s II?
That’s mostly what you get from Rough Night, the story of five women (Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz, and Kate McKinnon) on a bachelorette beach weekend in Miami, where they accidentally kill a stripper and desperately try to hide the body, as the movie tries to balance slapstick with black comedy (slapsick?), also a little desperately.
Rough Night (another very hard “R”) is intended to be in bad taste — even so, coinciding as it does with the recent Penn State fraternity case, “funny” moments that show the women being callous and indifferent to the dead man often strike the wrong note.
Turns in the plot ultimately make this feel less tactless, but Rough Night has other hurdles to clear. As far as the character sketches go, rigor mortis has set in — bride-to-be Johansson is a straitlaced politician protecting her public image, Bell the pushy friend who overplans the weekend, Kravitz and Glazer former college lovers who now fall into rigid hippie, yuppie archetypes. McKinnon’s only comedy weapon here is an Australian accent.
These are talented women, and they manufacture laughs here and there, but it’s telling and a little inconvenient that the movie’s most original, most amusing scenes are of the corresponding bachelor party. The groom (Paul Downs) hosts a sedate and foppish wine-tasting for his buddies (an array of stand-up and improv talent that includes Bo Burnham, Patrick Carlyle, Eric Andre, and Hasan Minhaj) — director Lucia Aniello gets the biggest payoff cutting from one group to another, a role-reversing gender swap that works consistently.
This also yields a funny road-trip sequence of Downs’ character driving all night to Miami, determined to rescue his bride, whether she needs it or not. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore have cameos as the swingers who occupy the beach house downstairs.
Finally, a shout-out to actor Ryan Cooper, who plays the dead man, for the most part a nonspeaking role. He stays in character, whether popped through the sun roof of a mini-car like a surfboard or prostrate on the beach for a one-sided make-out session with McKinnon.
Still, it’s Terry Kiser — the original Bernie — who remains cinema’s greatest stiff.
Directed by Lucy Aniello. With Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz, and Kate McKinnon. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 41 mins.
Parent's guide: R (language, adult themes, sexual situations, crudeness).
Playing at: Area theaters.