Though Based On A True Story, 'Amateur Night' Still Feels Like Just Another Raunchy Comedy [Review]

The biggest surprise “Amateur Night” has to offer comes after it ends, when it is revealed just how much of the film’s zany events uphold the “based on a true story” label. It is a refreshing revelation, especially after the growing insignificance of the tag, which more often than not is exposed to be a cheap misnomer. In spite of the film’s integrity however, here is a film about truly extraordinary events that is mostly autobiographical and true to the lives and experiences of writers and directors Joe Syracuse and Lisa Addario which never manages to feel personal, and instead is reduced to coming off as just another raunchy comedy.

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The film follows Guy, an expectant father and a talented architect unable to find a job. Down on his luck and out of money, he answers a Craigslist ad at the behest of his wife Anne, for what appears to be a menial job as a “driver.” What he thinks to be a night spent out delivering pizzas eventually turns out to be something much wilder, as he becomes chauffeur for call girls Nikki, Fallon, and Jaxi. With this premise, the film sometimes evokes the universal experience of an awkward Uber ride. Unlike those however, this one hardly feels memorable, nor does it offer much insight.

Watching the four interact between and during jobs is an entertaining process, as the women force Guy to adapt to his unlikely new gig. Portrayed by Jason Biggs as an everyman whittled down by insecurity, Guy draws a distinct contrast with the trio occupying his Volvo. Janet Montgomery stands out as Nikki, a surrogate den mother who demands control; the other two, portrayed by Ashley Tisdale and Bria Murphy (daughter of Eddie Murphy in her feature film debut) are not really characterized whatsoever, though they sell their roles fairly well.

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Mostly, the film stays derivative. This is one of those movies in which everything is an allegory for growing up and preparing for fatherhood. It is not subtle about it at all: in one sequence, Anne (played by Biggs’ real wife Jenny Mollen) actually shouts, “This is someone’s daughter we’re talking about!” thus hammering in the idea that taking care of three young call girls is theoretically the equivalent of being a good father to an infant daughter. That’s just a single example of the overwhelmingly predictable situations in which an attempt is made to make growth and redemption an underlying subtext, but it’s such a common trope, it never gains much resonance.

Occasionally funny, the film truly puts you in Guy’s shoes. It’s possible to get caught up in the film’s goofy excitement, while also simultaneously feeling just as uncomfortable as he does. However, Guy fails to elicit much sympathy, even if he’s in over his head. For a man who flaunts his Master’s in Architecture from Yale, Guy is ultimately kind of a bumbling idiot. Though these moments of true idiocy are mostly fictitious, it becomes difficult to watch him make every obvious mistake possible as he tries to get a handle on this outrageous situation. [C-]