The Night Before, 2015.
Directed by Jonathan Levine.
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Helene Yorke, Ilana Glazer, Aaron Hill, James Franco, Tracy Morgan, and Miley Cyrus.
On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
It was only a matter of time before Seth Rogen and his usual accomplices took their brand of juvenile hijinks and camaraderie, deciding to blend off-the-cuff, rapid fire humor into the holidays; more specifically, Christmas. What’s mildly disappointing about The Night Before is that, outside of a few clever ideas here and there, the formula for these raunchy offerings stay relatively untouched. The Christmas setting is most definitely taken full advantage of, but at the end of the day you’ve just watched another movie starring all of these interchangeable by the movie goofballs maturing as adults while coming to a greater understanding of friendship.
In some ways this isn’t into surprising considering that Evan Goldberg (This is the End) is a credited writer, which makes it all the more unfortunate that this is a heavy retread of every essential narrative beat in that movie. This is the End was a legitimately smart film that took celebrities as real people and tossed them into all sorts of self-deprecating scenarios and outrageous humor. Taking a look at director Jonathan Levine, and it’s also surprising that this movie has much less heart than something like 50/50, which Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both starred in.
The Night Before isn’t a bad movie by any means however, provided you are not tired of this routine. I for one, am not, despite feeling that the plot could have been slightly more intelligent based on some of the previous collaborations from everyone involved. The flick works best is when it is putting a twist on the drug-fueled comedy with the holiday spirit, most notably with Michael Shannon portraying a drug dealer selling three different kinds of weed for the occasion, built around the concept of past, present, and future, effectively making him out to be a fun take on the ghosts we are familiar with. It also helps that Michael Shannon is great in the role, conveying self-proclaimed quiet intensity, whereas everyone else just thinks he is crazy and creepy.
Seth Rogen also gives what might go down as one of his most memorable comedic performances, as he completely trips out on nearly every illegal drug known to mankind within the span of 12 hours. He sweats, gets belligerent, starts conversing super fast, and sometimes all at once morphing into a rolling ball of insanity that is both lovable and infectious. It should go without saying, but Seth Rogen also has many of the film’s most outlandishly crude yet side-splittingly funny moments. Unfortunately, one of those can be seen in the trailer already and actually might be the best part of the movie, which is an all too common problem in comedies today.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie also both have their moments, but aren’t operating anywhere near the level of insanity is Rogen. You could partly fault the script for giving them less to do, but the fact remains that The Night Before is at its most entertaining when Rogen is tearing the screen up with his off-the-wall performance. This difference in quality is also much more noticeable when the three go through their split-up phase that pretty much every buddy-comedy in the history of cinema contains. All that comes close to matching Rogen is a brief branching story where Anthony Mackie tries to recover stolen weed from a random girl that hates Christmas and is basically a living, breathing Grinch. Also, never forget about Michael Shannon; his cumulative screen-time of about 10 minutes justifies purchasing a ticket alone.
There are also some celebrity cameos; some welcome, others not so much. It makes sense throwing James Franco into the mix to anyone that has ever watched a stoner comedy like this before (not to mention his real-life friendship with Seth Rogen), but what is the purpose of having Miley Cyrus here to play a short-lived yet pivotal role other than for her to continue convincing the world that she’s not Hannah Montana anymore and grown up?
Still, you more or less know what you’re getting when stepping into the auditorium for The Night Before. It’s crass, hilarious, and destined to become a seasonal cult classic thanks to some well executed, if not formulaic, Christmas holiday cheer and messages about family and friendship.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook