Though it’s an unwatchable disaster in all other respects, “Best Night Ever” boasts two accomplishments, which contemporaneously speaking, make it something of a cinematic milestone: it by far makes worse use of “found footage” than possibly any movie ever, and it answers yes to the question of whether or not filmmakers can score a movie exclusively with even-more-horrible ripoffs of LMFAO’s already-horrible “Party Rock Anthem.”
A raunchy but admittedly earnest imitation of “Bridesmaids” and “Bachelorette,” the project marks the first “original” project from Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the consistently untalented purveyors of spoof movies like “Date Movie,” “Vampires Suck” and “The Starving Games.” But where the movies that inspired it at least managed to be funny, “Best Night Ever” is painfully bereft of laughs, much less a story, sympathetic characters or basic cinematic proficiency, reinforcing the unspoken Hollywood axiom that imitation is the most shameless – and disappointing – form of commercial desperation.
Desiree Hall (TV’s “Teen Wolf”) plays Claire, a bachelorette headed for Las Vegas with her sister Leslie (Samantha Colburn) and friends Zoe (Eddie Ritchard) and Janet (Crista Flanagan) to celebrate her impending nuptials. Arriving to discover that identity theft has made it impossible for Leslie to foot the bill for a penthouse suite, the foursome finds decidedly seedier digs at a nearby fleatrap. But after being ejected from a male strip club, their itinerary breaks down, they get robbed, and soon find themselves lost and broke in the back alleys of Sin City.
Desperate for cash, Janet leads them to a bar where she hopes to score $500 bucks wrestling in Jello. But as their problems multiply and the effects of a night of drinking and drug use begin to take its toll, Claire and her friends succumb to their desires and insecurities, jeopardizing not just the trek home, but the relationships that await them there – that is, if they don’t turn on each other first.
Since Friedberg and Seltzer don’t understand comedy, it stands to reason that they also don’t understand exactly what “found footage” means as a technique – meaning, when people have one camera that’s running constantly, you cannot cut to someone’s reaction shot, every single time, when someone makes a joke. That said, when you’re writing dialogue that’s a spectacularly unfunny as what the four actresses have to work with, I suppose it’s reasonable to want to alert audiences to the fact that they are supposed to be laughing.
At a svelte 82 minutes, it seems like it would be almost impossible not to find enough hair-raising scenarios for four trouble-seeking women to get into. And yet, the movie drags like it’s got the corpses of the filmmakers it’s copying tied to it. In one scene, the girls leap into a dumpster in order to avoid discovery by the cops, and while I’m not actually sure how long the one-take scene goes on, it involves a protracted freakout by Zoe that culminates in an almost complete performance of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” And later, there’s a mistaken-identity chase scene that goes on so long it cuts away to the next day, and then back again, when the characters decide to rewatch the footage of their misadventures.
Since 2002’s “The Sweetest Thing,” Hollywood has been trying to achieve some kind of perverse gender equality by suggesting that women can be as raunchy and stupid as their male counterparts – and having met one or two in real life, I can attest that’s true. But excepting “Bridesmaids” and “Bachelorette,” which imply far more than they actually show in terms of grossout gags, none of these efforts have even come within the solar system of being as good as the absolute worst of the “boy” movies that inspired them. And when you’re watching a movie where it feels like the filmmakers watched “The Hangover Part III,” and said, “THAT! That’s the kind of movie I want to make,” it’s not merely unfunny or disappointing, it’s demoralizing as a viewer, much less a consumer.
Ultimately, “Best Night Ever” feels more like “worst movie ever” – it’s so anti-funny, it’s toxic, almost ruining your memories of the movies that it stole its ideas from. This is mean-spirited antagonism of moviegoing audiences, a showcase for what a filmmaker can subject them to, if they can do it cheaply, and profitably enough. And what the actresses in the film go through feels like abuse, because no one should have to endure what they do in order to score a screen credit.
But you know who I feel most sorry for? Friedberg and Seltzer’s friends and loved ones. Because even if the duo famously avoids press and ignores reviews, those closest to them have got to watch this garbage at some point – and anyone who can sit through the whole thing and smile approvingly afterward gets my sympathy, and also probably deserves some kind of award for delivering a performance more convincing than any ever seen in one of their films.