There’s a sweet moment in “Never Goin’ Back” when best friends Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Cami Morrone) are sleeping next to each other, their pinkie fingers intertwined.
They’re lying in adjoining jail cells with their hands stretched through the bars. But still, it’s sweet.
Augustine Frizzell’s debut comedy is a gross-out stoner comedy, with enough bad behavior from its heroines to rival Harold & Kumar in their prime. But what keeps us going as Angela and Jessie lurch from one self-inflicted disaster to the next is that friendship. No matter how totally baked they get, they’re there for each other.
“Never Goin’ Back” has its Madison premiere at 6 p.m. Saturday at the UW-Madison Union South Marquee Theater, 1208 W. Dayton St., as part of the "What is Family?" Film Festival, which runs all weekend and is free and open to the public.
Angela and Jessie are high school dropouts working as waitresses in a dingy Dallas suburb, making just enough money to make rent and party hard in the off-hours. They live with Jessie’s good-for-nothing brother (Joel Allen) and his friend Brandon (Kyle Mooney of “Saturday Night Live”), a sub-shop worker who is a little too old to be hanging around with this crowd.
They’ve scraped together just enough money to take a vacation to the coast in Galveston. But circumstances (and some skeevy low-rent criminals) conspire against them, and they lose both the vacation nest egg and their rent money.
The rest of “Never Goin’ Back” follows Angela and Jessie’s haphazard quest to get the money back, or to steal somebody else’s money, or at least not lose their jobs at the diner so they can make some more money. They fail, and fail again, in a series of schemes that involve blackmail, robbery and a ridiculous amount of drugs.
Frizzell keeps the pacing brisk and the laughs raunchy, with several gross-out scenes and some carefully curated music cues (the use of a Michael Bolton song in one scene is flat-out hilarious). Mitchell and Morrone are fearless and funny throughout, and the film refuses to moralize about their bad behavior.
Raunchy teen comedies have been around for decades now, although it's usually the boys who get to misbehave while the girls stand on the sidelines. “Never Goin’ Back” is one of several movies this year, including “Flower” and “Assassination Nation,” which let teenage girls be just as gross as their male counterparts. You wouldn’t think gags about throwing up and constipation could be so empowering.