The Night Before stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie, three best friends who, for the past ten years, have been spending Christmas together in wild-fashion, with ugly sweaters, karaoke, and the ever-so-popular binge drinking. This year however, their Christmas traditions are coming to an end, and the movie focuses on the crazy antics of this final blowout. This sets the stage for plenty of genuine hilarity, but, aside from a few big laughs, a lot of the movie is filled with attempts to force humor through inherent vulgarity and slapstick stoner jokes. However, the three lead actors played their characters so well that this movie works itself out at even some of the more eye-rolling moments.
Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen (as always), but he does so even better than usual. This is mainly because his character is on an abundance of narcotics throughout the entire film. Watching him go on a roller-coaster of a trip had the theatre in stitches, and many of his ridiculous moments steal the show. Anthony Mackie wasn’t given as much of a comedic window in the movie, as there seemed to be significantly less moments written for him compared to the other two leads. Regardless, even the bits he was in on continually fell flat, and those that worked were usually overshadowed by Rogen feeling the affects of his mushroom-cocaine cocktails. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is essentially the core of the story, as the group’s Christmas traditions began when he lost his parents, but seems to struggle the most to find his feet in the comedy aspect of the film. This may have just been plagued by the story surrounding his character, since now the other two guys are ready to move away from their Christmas traditions, Rogen with a child on the way and Mackie with newfound fame. This leaves Levitt’s character feeling left behind, as both his personal and professional life are, for the most part, empty.
The focus on Levitt’s emotional composure really slows down the comedic pace of the film, offers little chance for Levitt to show his comedy chop, and weakens the film’s overall feel. Is this supposed to be a raucous holiday comedy with drunk Santas and grand-theft-sleigh, or a reflective romantic piece where a man rekindles an old love through the magic of Christmas? A film can’t effectively be both. The back-and-forth took away from the powerhouse of a comedy this film was advertised as, and it would have been much worse if Levitt didn’t have the acting ability for the more sentimental scenes they forced in.
Aside from the lead characters, the secondary characters and multitude of cameos play a big part in giving this movie a lot of its energy. Michael Shannon was my personal favorite, playing the guys’ old high-school drug dealer, he was both equal parts scary and philosophical. Nathan Fielder (Nathan For You) executes each of his small scenes as the guys’ overzealous limo driver, and Jillian Bell (Workaholics), playing Rogen’s pregnant wife, has surprisingly strong charisma across from Rogen. Cameos from Tracy Morgan and Miley Cyrus are written just small enough to let them showcase their ‘wacky’ personas without being overkill, and, of course, no Seth Rogen movie would be complete without a James Franco appearance
Overall, The Night Before is a decent holiday comedy, especially if you’re a Seth Rogen fan, or have a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I went in not expecting much, and I got exactly that. The funniest moments were all shown off in the movie’s trailers, as movie trailers notoriously do. The movie was simply another groaner of a film in this guy-friend-do-drugs-shenanigans sub-genre that Seth Rogen has built a career around, so, if you’re into that kinda thing, you’ll get what you pay for. Ultimately, this film will be a great rental for next year’s holidays, but if you are planning on heading to the theatres to catch this flick, I highly recommend some strong eggnog beforehand.
As a movie: 5/10
As a comedy: 6/10
As a Seth Rogen comedy: 8/10
So, have you guys seen The Night Before? What did you think? Let’s start a discussion in the comments below!
Author: Alex McNeal
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