SETH ROGEN, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT AND ANTHONY MACKIE STAR IN THIS MERRY SPIRITED, LAUGH OUT LOUD COMEDY, THAT PACKS AS MUCH HEART AND CHEER AS IT DOES RAUNCHY, BALLS OUT HUMOR. MAKING IT ONE OF, IF NOT THE BEST COMEDY OF THE YEAR AND CERTAINLY OF THIS UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON.
My biased might be showing here, but I can’t think of a movie that has had Seth Rogen in it that I haven’t liked, let alone got a few good belly laughs out of, and unlike Ronda Rousy’s career, Seth Rogen seems to be unstoppable at this point, at least for me. The Night Before continues his winning streak of hilarious comedies, that I find myself engrossed and engaged in all the way though, resulting in me leaving the theater with a big smile on my face. This time around Rogen had helped, returning with his 50/50 director Jonathan Levine and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and recruiting the major talents of Anthony Mackie, Michael Shannon, Mindy Kaling and Lizzie Caplan.
The setup is as follows: In 2001 Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents tragically died, leaving him alone for the holidays, his two best friends Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) pick up where they left off, and vowed to never leave Ethan alone for Christmas Eve again. Flash Forward 15 years later, and everyone is going their separate ways, with Isaac about to have a baby with his beautiful wife Betsy (Jillian Bell), and Chris becoming a famous Athlete thanks to aid of a certain performance drug *cough* STEROIDS *cough*, the guys have decided to make this their last Christmas Eve hurrah, before attending to their own worlds, a notion that Ethan’s clearly not comfortable with. With blessings and a box of goodies (and by that I mean drugs, lots of them) from his wife, Isaac, Chris and Ethan trek through New York on Christmas Eve, their annual tradition, but when Ethan scalps tickets the extravagant and enigmatic Nutcracker Ball, a place which Ethan has been trying to go to for the last 8 years, the bros begin a wild journey to get there, crossing paths with an elusive female Grinch, a drug dealing Mr. Green (Michael Shannon), and hopefully give Ethan a chance to reconnect with his old girlfriend Diana (Lizzie Caplan).
With all that out the way and taking this all in a face value, there is very little “plot” to speak of in The Night Before, following in the footsteps of say Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, or even Rogen’s first major outing in Superbad, each checked mark crossed off by the affirmation plot is simply a transition from one crazy bit to next, in a rather hilarious string of comedic set pieces, headed by Rogen whose brilliant turn as a drug induced Isaac is a more constant reliant than the story itself. Rogen is at his comedic best, playing up the effects that the many drugs provided by his wife have given him, by interacting with his surroundings, at one point in the movie Rogen’s character has consumed: Mushrooms, Cocaine and Weed in his system and has to visit a church with his pregnant wife and in-laws which then leads to one of the highlights in the film, that was unfortunately given away in the trailer.
Fret not though, even though and yes unfortunately most of the funniest stuff is indeed in the trailer(s), the movie itself is thankfully full of great surprises and twist that you won’t find in another comedy outing of this type. One of these surprises is from Shannon, who is almost Meta like in his character portrayal of Mr. Green, an infamous drug dealer the three friends used to call on in their later days of high school. Shannon brings most of his traits he usually displays in his various and prolific roles in those weird indie movies we can usually find him in and mixes it up with his brilliant comedic timing and becomes the scene stealer in the movie.
Gordon-Levitt and Mackie are also made great due here, each of them brining their own unique comedic style to the film and helping it rise above what could have been a tired formulaic comedy. Gordon-Levitt is given most of the emotional work here, as his sudden loss of parents lead to his stifled maturity and emotional growth, force him to clash with certain things that he might not be mentally ready to handle and—
Mackie gets loads to do with his charismatic glow that is genius made up of a lifelong built up of insecurities which helps fleshes his character out to be a fully realized member of the dream team, each member of which is given their moment to shine and emotional challenge that they each have to wrestle with on their own personal grounds, before the night is done.
The film’s script doesn’t sort change the women as well, with each of the female characters given their own personalities outside those of the male counterparts, Caplan in particular whose character is much more fully realized than what typically comes from a comedy of this elk.
All in all, there is little to criticized about The Night Before, some of the jokes don’t land as well as they should, or maybe I couldn’t those particular ones because I was laughing so hard at the jokes that came before and after them, there is also an unsuspecting amount of heart and warmth in this film’s script as well, much due to the interactions between the three leads as well as Gordon-Levitt and Caplan’s characters help bring out the emotional heft to balance all the hi-jinks and raunchy blue color humor jokes.
In what is sure to be a Oscar bait heavy season coming up, it’s good to see a movie that is all chills and comedic thrills, that eases our transition from a rocky fall into a what is sure to be a blessing season ahead.
EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME