Title: Best Night Ever
Directors: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Crista Flanagan, Desiree Hall, Samantha Colburn, Eddie Ritchard
Filmmakers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have been accused of plenty of crimes against cinema in their careers, so one might not think that their latest effort, “Best Night Ever,” would necessarily hold much surprise. As the writer-directors behind slapdash spoofs like “Date Movie,” “Disaster Movie,” “Meet the Spartans” and others — overwhelmingly critically panned, all — they’ve traded in creatively bankrupt, stick-poke, air-quote satire for more than a half-dozen years. And yet “Best Night Ever” is notable, in that it’s essentially the duo’s first nominally original, non-directly-referential screenplay. So does the film, a wisp-thin, gender-inverted rip-off of “The Hangover” and “Project X,” open in forced-outrageous fashion, with auto-tuned synth music and the black-barred member of a male stripper flopping about in circles? Yes, yes it does. And it’s almost entirely downhill from there.
The movie’s story centers on bride-to-be Claire (Desiree Hall), who sets out for a bachelorette party in Las Vegas with her uptight sister Leslie (Samantha Colburn), the fun-loving Zoe (Eddie Ritchard) and Janet (Crista Flanagan), a quirky mother ready to let her freak flag fly. When their hotel room rental plans are wrecked, they end up in a dump far off the Strip, and not too much later they’re robbed by a valet. Still, the women are determined to keep a party vibe alive, and so drunken carousing and the requisite series of unexpected misadventures ensues.
What’s right about “Best Night Ever” pretty much begins and ends with the cast. The actresses here have an across-the-board likeability and genuine rapport; each inhabit the broad constructs of their disparate, clashing personalities with aplomb, and bring a lot of energy to the proceedings. Flanagan (“MadTV”) is probably the most known of the quartet (though Colburn is also splashed across televisions presently in several commercials, most notably as the redhead who has a murderous appetite for the Brown M&M), and she in particular throws herself into the considerable physical humiliation of her character (Jell-O wrestling, inopportune lactation, nervous bowel movements) with total commitment.
Unfortunately, after a bit of early promise, Friedberg and Seltzer’s film settles into a manic, nonsensical groove. For reasons most likely related to budget, “Best Night Ever” is conceived of as yet another “found footage” film. In and of itself, whatever one thinks of this trend, there isn’t a reason this couldn’t work — as a self-chronicled tale of boozy excess. Unfortunately, custody-of-camera issues crop up early and often in Friedberg and Seltzer’s movie, rendering it at first slightly irritating and then outright infuriating. While Zoe has control of the camera for much of the movie’s runtime, scenarios which get it out of her hands are contrived and poorly thought out. And then the coverage begins to not even match the set-ups, at which point viewers will just become more engaged in spotting errors than by anything unfolding onscreen.
NOTE: In addition to its theatrical engagements, “Best Night Ever” is also available on iTunes and across VOD platforms.
Written by: Brent Simon