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'Rough Night' is a little funny and a lot annoying

"Rough Night" is vastly more annoying than it is funny. The effort expended on it was excessive and the cause was hopeless from the beginning. When a couple of actual laughs show up in its final 10 minutes, after so much labor in today's comedy industrial complex, it wasn't worth sitting through the movie to get there.

It could have been saved in the planning stages but the solution would have required radical realism. And I don't just mean by not showing every marginally funny thing in the TV commercials either.

The way to have made this movie work was to throw the script in the garbage, change the original plan, and get rid of everyone in the cast except Kate McKinnon and Scarlett Johansson.

That's the raunchy comedy I want to see – the two of them misbehaving. We didn't need an acting entourage, no matter how good they are as former college sorority chums 10 years later having a bachelorette blowout in Miami for Johansson's character before her wedding day. She's running for state senator back home which means she's more than a bit of a priss now and reluctant to smoke weed and snort blow along with her pals.

But hey, in Hollywood industrial comedy, going wild is standard operating procedure.

Which is more than a little dull and predictable. The film is a remake of Peter Berg's "Very Bad Things" in 1998, a very dark comedy that worked.

Please understand. I couldn't be more in favor of women grabbing past male successes in comedy to see what can be done when you change genders. The all-female "Ghostbusters" would have worked with a better script.

That's not entirely true with "Rough Night." The basic game plan was flawed. Changing genders changed everything crucial about "Very Bad Things." The key to that film is that the audience had no affection for the guys caught in their predicament and not much respect either. They were just a bunch of spoiled pretentious weasels so when we found out that they needed to get rid of a dead prostitute in a hurry, we were laughing at just how weaselly weasels could be when caught in circumstances in which humanity is required.

When you've got actors like Jon Favreau, Christian Slater and Daniel Stern in your movie, you've got guys who are practiced in the thespian art of being unpleasant but funny onscreen. Phony is their middle name in some movies.

We just don't want to dislike any of the women in "Rough Night" – except Demi Moore in a supporting role as an oversexed swinger living next door to the gorgeous glass house the women are partying down in.

The old sorority sisters (McKinnon plays a buddy from Australia) are not only presented as sympathetic from the beginning but so, all through the movie, is their "very bad" predicament – one dead guy to get rid of, an unconscious stripper in a bedroom with an egg of a bruise on his forehead that could have been laid by an ostrich.

There went the movie's comic possibilities. It's completely wrong that this movie wants us to like everyone – which we do. That's why we can't laugh at their problems the way we could at those "nice" guys in "Very Bad Things" determined to get away with something. They were raving hypocrites caught with their pants down. "Bridesmaids" was so funny because actual weddings are always massively uncomfortable in ways no one wants to admit.

That's why I say they should have jettisoned the basic plan before they even started, ignored "Very Bad Things" and improvised from scratch with just Johansson and McKinnon acting out and acting up.

Enough of all these female entourage movies. We are ready – God are we ever – for the first really big breakout movie starring McKinnon.

This isn't it.


“Rough Night”

2 stars (0ut of four)

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer. Directed by Lucia Aniello. 101 minutes. Rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images.

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