About a year ago, a certain film called The Interview raised a lot of controversy and even insighted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to threaten global war if it was released. Even without a massive theatrical release, they made an insane amount of money – now Rogen and crew are back, and hoping that this time, their labour of love will make it to the big screen with The Night Before.
The Night Before, directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50 and Warm Bodies), follows Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose parents were killed on Christmas. In a somber state, his friends, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), take him out on the town to party the night away, which in turn marked a new tradition every Christmas Eve. Now, with Isaac becoming a father and Chris, a budding professional football star, this will be their last chance for Christmas debauchery. Appropriately, Ethan wants to go out with a bang and gets exclusive tickets to the biggest party in town… “The Nutcracker Ball”.
The Night Before continues the trend of Seth Rogen making some serious comedic efforts that pay off big time. It is not the most inventive film, nor is it a Christmas film for all audiences, but it will certainly leave a mark. Rogen again proves he has some serious acting chops as well. Flustered and belligerent, Rogen shines bright as his character, Isaac; he experiences a drug fuelled, raunchy binge that will have audiences in stitches. However, this may be why the film has been given the label of a ‘stoner’ flick.
The Night Before is a rite-of-passage for the three main characters. The lovelorn Ethan seeking to amend his past woes, Isaac on the verge of becoming a father for the first time and Chris an aging football star making a career resurgence are all masked behind the tropes that audiences expect from a regular Christmas film. Also, while vulgar, director Jonathan Levine always hits us back with pure heart and endearing moments.
Aside from Rogen, Mackie and Gordon-Levitt are nuanced enough to hold the film together. While Mackie definitely stepped well into his role of lovable jock, surprisingly Gordon-Levitt’s character of Ethan came across as a drag in most instances. Aside from that, the film hosts a plethora of smaller parts for Michael Shannon, the oddball, but wise drug dealer; Lizzy Caplan, a Rogen favourite; and newcomer, Jillian Bell. Not to mention comedy cameo appearances from Jason Mantzoukas, Mindy Kaling, Miley Cyrus, Tracey Morgan, and a few more surprise guests.
All in all, The Night Before offers a specific gaze into alternative Christmas movies that cater to a particular audience. The film is entertaining to the core even though it leaves cohesive narrative to the side at times. However, Levine and co. are able to create a story about three gentlemen that audiences can relate to and understand while providing vulgar comedy that will have you splitting your sides in laughter.