Playing an Australian freshly arrived in Florida in Rough Night, Kate McKinnon bafflingly calls everyone's favourite Italian meal "pizzer". When she's hungry, she pulls a jar of Vegemite out of her bag. And for some unexplained reason, she asks for toilet tissue rather than toilet paper. These are three things likely to make Aussie audiences cringe. And yet despite this, they're actually attached to the best part of the film.
Much as she was in Ghostbusters, Masterminds and Office Christmas Party, McKinnon is in Rough Night a downright comic delight, the best part of an ensemble cast that also includes Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz. If only the material matched her skills. Unfortunately this unremarkable comedy proves to be little more than a blend of Very Bad Things, The Hangover and Weekend at Bernie's, with a few familiar, sentimental musings about female friendship thrown in.
Indeed, writer-director Lucia Aniello and her co-scribe Paul W. Downs — both Broad City alum — are happy sticking to a formula. If their script simply read "women behave badly, then hug", we wouldn't be surprised. You already know exactly how this film is going to play out: aspiring state senator Jess (Johansson) and her pals Alice (Bell), Blair (Kravitz), Frankie (Glazer) and Pippa (McKinnon) converge on Miami for 55 hours of drinking, partying, penis-shaped paraphernalia and selfie-worthy raucousness. That's all well and good, until they hire a male stripper and then accidentally kill him.
Following in the footsteps of Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, it's great that female-led comedies are finally hitting cinemas in increasing numbers, albeit slowly. It's also great that Rough Night is helmed and co-scripted by a woman and features five ace ladies in the lead roles. Still, we can't help but wish that the film delivered more than just by-the-book observations and stereotypical characters. Sensible, envious, posh, feisty, kooky Aussie: the women here have about as much dimension as members of a '90s girl band.
Outside of McKinnon, the biggest chuckles stem from cutaways to Jess' fiance's bachelor party, which involves a civilised evening of wine tasting rather than knocking back shots and snorting drugs. Of course, the fact that more amusement stems from the men in the movie than the women is an enormous problem. With most of its great ladies sadly underused, Rough Night feels like a wasted opportunity. What the world wants is more smart, funny, female-led flicks. What the world didn't need is lazy gender-swapped hijinks packaged as girls-gone-wild fun.