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It’s been several years since The Hangover trilogy’s epic conclusion. So what’s happened to the “wild night” comedies? They’ve become vehicles for women. Rough Night (left) and Girls Trip (right) both come out this summer and both trailers showcase women, raunchy humor, and shenanigans that will appeal to all demographics. These films might be entirely pleasant but there is something slightly unsettling about these trailers. It’s not a lack of humor, although that is entirely subjective, but these two films being released within weeks of each other merits a discussion about the party film and more importantly, the gender divide that occurs when the boys hit the town versus a girl’s night out.

The shocking thing is that despite the obvious comparisons to The Hangover films, Rough Night has a much closer male film counterpart. Very Bad Things takes a bunch of men to Vegas for a bachelor party. They get the full “Vegas” experience, and then a female escort is accidentally killed during sex. The drive of the comedy for Very Bad Things comes from the cover up more so than the murder and body disposal, with most of the humor coming from the bachelors’ personalities. Juxtapose that with the Rough Night trailer, in which the girls deal with the dead stripper over the course of one night and go through increasingly more elaborate methods to move and dispose of his corpse in Miami. It’s less about the personalities of the girls themselves in juxtaposition to the events and more so, the escalation of desperate women trying to avoid prison and yet “have a good time”.

On the lighter end of the spectrum is Girls Trip, where no sex workers are harmed in the making of a good time. Girls Trip follows four lifelong friends as they rediscover their wild sides, rekindle their bonds, and have a fantastic vacation. It’s mildly raunchy fun as the women get wasted and tear up the town, but the plot isn’t highlighted as much. The second trailer highlights mild tensions with lovers, but mainly focuses on having a great time and the foursome discovering how to live again. Coming across as a hybrid of Bad Moms and Grown Ups isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is something missing that was captured like lightning in a bottle in 2009.

The Hangover was a cultural and financial success. The quintessential modern definition of “what happens in Vegas” turned Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis into billable movie stars (sorry Justin Bartha) and spawned two follow up films. The plot is 3/4th comedy and 1/4th mystery as a bunch of guys wake up after a blackout with barely any recollection of the night before. It didn’t showcase the men’s wild night, choosing instead to focus on the collateral damage. This is also what makes this film inherently fascinating and highlights what’s missing in the two latest features: nothing. Both Very Bad Things and The Hangover are focused more on the after effects of the night and the implications for the characters rather than the inciting incident. Both Girls Trip and Rough Night are preoccupied with living in the moment of the film that there isn’t any real dread or development for the characters. The Hangover works so well because it takes a condensed timeline and allows the Wolfpack their debauched evening without it turning wacky immediately.

These four films are not co-ed affairs. There’s something appealing about having a “girl’s night” or a “night on the town with the boys” that the exclusivity of the narrative makes sense, but ultimately the differences in gender frequently change the way the story is told. When the girls control the story, the plot tends to be contained to the night of with a conclusion that hints at a larger growth without much demonstration. The girls choose instead to live in the moment as it happens and the stories reflect that. When the guys control the story it is usually framed as one bad decision that spirals into the larger narrative, with the leading men having to both damage control and solve the problem of the previous night. In short; women act while men react and that makes all the narrative difference.

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