Judge Gordon Sullivan had only a so-so night with it.
The hangover will be the easy part.
There's nothing inherently wrong with chasing a trend, though some filmmakers do it badly. One need look no further than Transmorphers to see that jumping on a passing bandwagon isn't really the way to go. However, time has shown us that it's possible to see what's in the air and make something out of it. The trick seems to be that filmmakers can't try to crib from a single source; it's not the low budget and terrible acting that kills Transmorphers, but the fact that it only steals from one obvious film. Now that we've had half a decade of wedding-related comedies that aren't afraid to go for the adult audience (think The Hangover or Bridesmaids), it's safe for well-known parody auteurs Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Meet the Spartans) to try their hand with Best Night Ever. It's a slight departure for the directors, but probably won't appeal outside their core demographic.
Facts of the Case
Claire (Desiree Hall, Teen Wolf) and three of her friends set off for Vegas to give Claire her bachelorette party. Thanks to a shoe convention, the quartet ends up on the outskirts of Vegas, far from the glamour. Instead, faced with the seedier side of the Strip, the women decide to have as much nasty fun as they can.
The disc cover proudly touts, "A raging new comedy from the directors and co-writers of Epic Movie, Date Movie, and Meet the Spartans." That is, of course, totally accurate, as Friedberg and Seltzer are responsible for those three films as well. It is, though, a misleading statement. Those three films are all parodies of famous films. From their titles, it's not hard to guess which films are in for a drubbing. Best Night Ever leads viewers to expect something similar, with a take on Bridesmaids and/or The Hangover films.
Best Night Ever, though, is not a parody film. Instead, it's a brand-new take on the genre we've come to know through the likes of The Hangover and Bridesmaids. Yes, viewers can expect familiar tropes (the "good girl" friend, the crazy friend, etc.) and similar themes, but Best Night Ever isn't constantly throwing a knowing wink towards its generic compatriots the way that Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans inevitably do. Instead, Best Night Ever throws another recent trend into the mix, making Best Night Ever a found footage film that plays out as a video diary for Zoe, one of Claire's friends. Don't get me wrong, viewers of recent films will note a nod here and there to other films (Spring Breakers comes immediately to mind), but Best Night Ever feels more like its own beast than any of the other Friedberg/Seltzer collaborations.
All this ultimately makes Best Night Ever more disappointing than it has to be. The film is shot like a video diary and doesn't feature uber-famous actresses, so the filmmakers get to take a lot of chances in Vegas. The actresses can all wander around without being drowned in fans, and there are some nice interactions with anonymous (apparently real-life) tourists and other denizens of Las Vegas. Moreover, everyone involved is willing to take the film to its limit, with plenty of swearing, nudity, vomit, and bad behavior to go around. This is the duo's first R-rated outing, and it seems like they've thrown off the PG-13 shackles with gusto. Add to that the found-footage conceit (which isn't often used in this kind of comedy), and the film should be a home run for Friedberg and Seltzer. Instead, the shooting style and game participation of the actresses are the only sparks in an otherwise fairly dead film.
The main problem with Best Night Ever is that it didn't learn the lessons of Bridesmaids and, to a greater extent, Bachelorette. The latter film has all of the raunchy craziness that Best Night Ever aspires to, but it marries that to a genuinely dark, genuinely emotional take on friendship and growing up. The characters in Bachelorette actually talk to one another and change as a result of the horrific night the film documents. No such conversations plague Best Night Ever. In a nod to their other collaborations, this film feels like a series of stitched-together skits rather than the arc of one or more characters.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At least Magnolia's Best Night Ever (Blu-ray) is strong. The film's 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is pretty strong. The film is meant to be "found footage," but for the most part the image is crystal clear and brimming with well-saturated colors. There are a few times in motion and in a couple of dark scenes where it's possible to see the low-budget origins of the image, but overall, the film looks surprisingly good. The film's DTS-HD 5.1 track is also appropriate, if not breathtaking. Dialogue is clean and clear from the front, and the surrounds get a bit of use. Overall, the track is a bit cramped towards the front, but that fits in with its "video diary" style.
Extras start with 8 minutes of deleted/alternate scenes, including the suggestion of a different ending. Then we get short (2-3 minute) interviews with three of the four partiers (Desiree Hall, Samantha Colburn, and Crista Flanagan), along with an AXS TV promo that includes bits from these interviews. The film's trailer is also included.
Best Night Ever seems to offer something a bit different from parody peddlers Friedberg and Seltzer. A found-footage vibe and fewer direct references to other films give it a standalone feel. Sadly, these new aspects can't save the film from feeling like an empty collection of gags surrounding expectedly raunchy Las Vegas highlights. Fans of the duo's previous work will likely find something to appreciate here and should give this Blu-ray a rental. Others will likely want to steer clear, unless they have some passionate attachment to the bachelor(ette) genre.
Not the best ever, but not guilty.
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