Directed by Jonathan Levine. Starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, Mindy Kaling, Lizzy Caplan, Miley Cyrus, Michael Shannon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer.
In 2001, Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents were killed by a drunk driver at Christmas. Ever since, his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have made a tradition of keeping their friend company, becoming his new family. This year is different, however. Isaac is about to become a dad and Chris’s football career means he’s too famous to hang out with his friends, so the three decide to make their last Christmas Eve together one to remember.
THE VERDICT: Another year, another Seth Rogen-led bromantic comedy. The Night Before takes advantage of the festive season by planting itself right at the heart of it, but the good news is that while the film is chaotic and rather madcap, it is also wonderfully funny and at times, rather smart.
Seth Rogen plays another Seth Rogen-esque character in Isaac, but since Rogen is good at playing drug addled in an entertaining way, this works out in his favour. Joseph Gordon-Levitt obviously has a whale of a time playing Ethan and Anthony Mackie rounds out this bromantic trio as the football player who is not telling his friends the whole truth. Elsewhere, Mindy Kaling turns up as a rapid talking party girl, Lizzy Caplan plays Ethan’s ex-girlfriend and they are joined by Miley Cyrus, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Dave Franco as himself – again – and Michael Shannon in a wonderfully funny turn as the drug dealer Mr Green (geddit!?).
The story, written for the screen by Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Evan Goldberg follows the usual story of a wild night out gone even wilder, but has some clever touches thrown in; Michael Shannon’s character effectively works as Dickens’ ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, showing each of the men what they need to know, and there are plenty of references to great movies of the past, including Home Alone and Dogma. As well as this, the film is filled with nostalgia, and jokes are set up way in advance with great pay off, even as it is so scattered as to be messy and rather chaotic.
Director Jonathan Levine paces the film well, with each element worked out so as not to take up too much time, and to build up nicely to the mythical party the men have been trying to find for years. The trouble is that the film tries to fit in so much, that the pacing becomes rather manic and, although nothing is allowed to linger for too long, this is precisely where the film runs into trouble. That said, there are plenty of laughs and sight gags throughout the film, and the celebrity cameos are never all that gratuitous, with each poking fun at themselves in a way.
In all, The Night Before is not quite a return to the high of This Is The End, but it is an improvement on several of the recent stoner bromantic comedies from Seth Rogen. There is almost too much going on at times, but the central trio work well on screen, the jokes are there and the nostalgia present throughout. A little less chaos would have worked well, but as it stands The Night Before is a lot of fun; just don’t think about it too much.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Night Before
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Festive Fun
  • filmbuff2011

    It’s been a busy week for Christmas-themed films (blame Star Wars: The Force Awakens for scaring away films later in December). In order of quality, there’s Krampus, Christmas With The Coopers… and the runt of the litter, The Night Before. Three New York buddies gather together on Christmas Eve to carry on a tradition that has been going on since 2001 – they hit the town for one wild night looking for the ultimate party, the Nutcracker Ball. There’s commitment-phobic Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is reeling from losing his girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan); stoner Isaac (Seth Rogen), who is going to be a Dad but isn’t quite ready to accept that yet; and Chris (Anthony Mackie), a football player who takes steroids and is preparing for a storm of controversy if it gets out. The trio hit the town, scoring some drugs from wise dealer Mr Green (Michael Shannon) and meeting various characters along the way. At the same time, they’re following clues to the secret location of the Nutcracker Ball, where hopefully they might achieve bliss and a very merry Christmas… It’s no surprise to learn that The Night Before was written by Evan Goldberg, who directed Rogen in This Is The End. It’s a big love-in for all concerned, as director Jonathan Levine also worked with Gordon-Levitt on 50/50. You know what to expect here – Rogen acting the roguish manchild all over again, as if he was taking lessons from Adam Sandler. There is of course a cameo from James Franco, along with lots of drugs being taken and some wacked-out tripping. Isaac’s wife’s Betsy (Jillian Bell) has the great idea of giving him a selection box of drugs for Christmas, so that’s where most of the tripping comes from. There is something amiable about this film – the bromance elements are well-played and the central trio are basically good guys who like to get a little wild. Shannon also brings some much needed dark charisma too. But the rest of the film is muddled and unsure of itself, lost on the streets like the characters, trying to find an end goal which isn’t that impressive. There’s also an insane amount of product placement in the film. Levine might as well have put ‘sponsored by Red Bull’ at the start of the film. Come on – audiences are smarter than that and don’t need to be banged on the head repeatedly by product placement. The Night Before is weak stuff, distilled from an initially interesting idea that ultimately falls flat on its face. **