The Night Before Movie Review
I’m sure people watching NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION when it was first released would never have guessed that the level of raunchy humor on display could ever be replicated, much less increased. But BAD SANTA proved us wrong and now THE NIGHT BEFORE is here to remind us that Christmas can be more than singing carols and kissing under the mistletoe. It can be about doing drugs and puking during midnight Mass.
THE NIGHT BEFORE is not a movie you watch with grandma and the other extended relatives in your family. It is a movie that you watch with your friends over beers, laughing at every immature scene and every equally juvenile moment. But the people behind THE NIGHT BEFORE understand that for every joke about genitalia, they do need to warm the cockles of your heart. Enter Ethan (Gordon-Levitt).
When Ethan was younger, his parents passed away on Christmas Eve. He was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation, but young enough to have their death impact every Christmas from then on out. Saving him from a perpetual lifetime of misery every time the Yuletide rolls around are his friends, Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie). Knowing that Ethan no longer had a family, they became his family. And like any good, but bad influence, they took Ethan out for a night of drug abuse, drunken karaoke, and fried Chinese food.
THE NIGHT BEFORE focuses in on, what is supposed to be, their final night of drunken Christmas Eve debauchery. Ethan is experiencing another rough patch in his life, but Isaac is about to have a kid and Chris is beginning to become a star in the NFL. Both of them are almost done with this tradition that they believe is starting to be a little bit beneath them. They’re just having a hard time trying to figure out how to tell Ethan.
Without spiraling off too much on a sour note THE NIGHT BEFORE stays true to its roots as a stoner comedy. Rogen and his co-horts obviously had a part in ensuring that THE NIGHT BEFORE would remain grounded in humor, but Gordon-Levitt was brought in to inject that much needed holiday soul. While most Christmas movies come off as cheesy, THE NIGHT BEFORE plays up the theme that family is the ones who make you happy.
Jonathan Levine, who directed Gordon-Levitt and Rogen in 50/50, understands the components that make up a dramedy. In one hand, he controls your emotions with Gordon-Levitt, and in the other he tickles your funny bone with Rogen. Mackie comes in to help create a balance between the two extremes. The only problem with the movie is the script loses focus too much like a child watching a Christmas pageant.
Much of that can be attributed to the four writers who had a say in how everything would come together. The shameless appearances by real life stars sometimes feel shoehorned in and don’t mix well with the other special guest stars in the movie. Michael Shannon, who on paper seems like a miscast, was born to play the role in this movie. He plays a ghost of Christmas past, present, and future drug dealer. His mere presence seems to help guide the story back on path.
THE NIGHT BEFORE is in no way an original movie, but it acknowledges this multiple times, by paying homage to other Christmas movies or simply playing with holiday tropes. At times it’s a laugh riot, it other times it packages a joke specifically for one group or person that will understand the punch line, and at other times the jokes fall flat. If you end up spending too much time with people you don’t like this holiday, spent it with people you will like and see THE NIGHT BEFORE.