'Rough Night' Review: Female 'Hangover' Never Finds Its Comedic Mojo

A crack female cast try to breathe comic life into this confused comedy about a bachelorette party gone off the rails

'Rough Night' features a comic female cast who never wear out their welcome – unlike the movie itself, says Peter Travers. Read our review.

Four women go wild at a Miami bachelorette party for their BFF Jess (Scarlett Johansson), an uptight candidate for state senator who has to work through some control issues. Good premise. It's club time for the ladies – Frankie (Ilana Glazer), a lesbian activist, and her former lover, real-estate diva Blair (Zoë Kravitz); Pippa (SNL MVP Kate McKinnon), Jess's Aussie bud from her year abroad; and schoolteacher Alice (Jillian Bell), the college party animal who never reformed and still feels no shame over her rep as a "foot-job girl." Great cast. The director and co-screenwriter is Lucia Aniello, part of the femcentric fun ride of Comedy Central's Broad City.

So far, so delectable. And then what? After doing shots, snorting blow and finding themselves, as Alice says, "swimming in dicks," the fivesome hangs out at a plush beach house. You assume we'd start finding things out about who they are, what binds or unbinds them, etc.. Nah.

The plot pivots around the death of a male stripper. It's not a murder – one of the larger ladies just jumped the dude with too much enthusiasm. (Dock a large number of points lost here for fat shaming.) There is also blood, a frisson to temper the overheated mayhem, and then lots of strained hilarity about hiding the body. At which point, Rough Night suffers a major identity crisis. Is it Bridesmaids mixed with the classic corpse comedy Weekend at Bernie's? Or, if your taste runs to indies, is it Very Bad Things spiced with Bachelorette?

As it turns out, the movie never figures out what it is, descending at its worst to an estrogen-fueled spin on a testosterone-heavy Hangover sequel. With this team of talent, we have the right to expect more than comic desperation and contrivances such as the swingers next door, played by Demi Moore and Ty Burrell, whose house has surveillance cameras. What to do? The obvious, it seems. [Sigh.]

The laughs are scattershot, though I did like the sight gag about The Human Centipede. But the pleasure here is all in the actresses. Glazer, a co-creator of Broad City, can really nail a zinger, and her scenes with Kravitz have a welcome edge. And Johansson, in the straight role – cowriter Paul W. Downs plays Jess's no-fun fiancé – shows a scrappy willingness to let loose in an R-rated mainstream rabble-rouser. Bell is the live-wire in this bunch; I'd give her best in show if it wasn't for McKinnon stealing every scene she's in. The women in Rough Night are terrific company. They never wear out their welcome. You can't say the same for the movie.