Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell in Rough Night (Photo: Columbia)

ROUGH NIGHT
** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Lucia Aniello
STARS Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon

Never a Bridesmaids but always a Bridesmaids wannabe, Rough Night stars Scarlett Johansson as Jess, whose political campaign gets put on hold for one weekend as she heads to Miami for her bachelorette party. Set to marry sweet Peter (Paul W. Downs, who also co-wrote the script with director Lucia Aniello), she’s joined on her outing by her best friends from her college days: needy Alice (Jillian Bell), sophisticated Blair (Zoe Kravitz), outspoken Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and, from her studies abroad, eccentric Aussie Pippa (Kate McKinnon). After much consumption of alcohol and cocaine at a nightclub, it’s determined that a male stripper should be summoned to the house for Jess’s pleasure. But in her state of perpetual horniness, Alice ends up killing the dude, and the five ladies spend the rest of the picture determining how best to cover up the crime.

Rough Night never gets as ugly as 1998’s comparable Very Bad Things, but even acknowledging (semi-spoiler, I guess, though it’s pretty easy to guess where the movie is heading) that it will eventually be revealed that this man deserved his gruesome fate, the filmmakers never find the proper degree at which to pitch their black comedy, making the scenario more lurid than intriguing. Moving beyond the killing, the remainder of the picture just isn’t very funny, with the great McKinnon largely wasted and Bell receiving far too much screen time while playing a truly odious character.

To its credit, the movie isn’t afraid to acknowledge alternative lifestyles — one central character is gay, another is bi, and neighbors amusingly played by Ty Burrell and Demi Moore are rampaging swingers – and there are some bright early sequences involving Peter and his friends, all of whose idea of a wild weekend is to attend a wine tasting in which one of the wines is — gasp! — served chilled. But for the most part, Rough Night only succeeds in squandering a strong cast on material that’s guilty of mediocrity and inconsistency.

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