Review 109: The Night Before (2015)
Seth Rogen is always hit or miss for me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is usually great, but he’s done some bad films. Anthony Mackie is Falcon, and that’s all I’ve seen him play so far. The three together in a Christmas Comedy…The Night Before CAN’T be good, right? Well, I really enjoyed this movie and it’s April! Rating a Christmas film takes a different kind of lens to judge its successes. Christmas movies should have a sense of family importance and togetherness, a sense of relatability, and a sense of wonderment on top of what you expect a normal movie to have. Christmas movies get a little bit of leeway for me that allow for a bit of cheese and weaker production than others. With that, I’d say The Night Before will make it into my Christmas movie rotation putting it in the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy Christmas movie stocking.
The Night Before Plot Summary
On Christmas Eve, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) are bringing their Christmas tradition of spending the night before Christmas together. They’ve dreamt of attending this epic Christmas party for years and they finally have their chance, but their personal issues threaten to prevent them from finally attending the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
Seth Rogen is playing a very normal Seth Rogen character, but only because his wife (Jillian Bell) has given him a box of drugs as a one last hoorah before being a daddy. Thus, he goes through most of this movie on some drug or another, and, sadly, he’s hilarious when he’s in that role. He is easily the reason I laughed through most of this film. I’m very sympathetic to JGL’s character who lost his parents while in High School and Isaac and Chris become his surrogate family building around Christmas tradition. Mackie’s character is a little more stereotypical as a 34 year-old professional athlete who we see shooting steroids in the beginning of the film to explain why he is suddenly a superstar on the field. He’s a jock who needs the admiration of fans and uses his social media to satisfy that need.
Jonathan Levine is the director and co-writer (Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir) with an eclectic series of films to his credit that include “Warm Bodies and another JGL/Rogen vehicle “50/50.” I’d say he does a great job with this film and telling the story of Ethan and his inability to let his friend evolve out of fear of losing another family. Early on in the film we see Ethan working as an Elf and being demoted to coat room attendant. It’s easy to see that he is also struggling to fulfill that job’s requirements, but it works out as he steals tickets to the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. This sequence really speaks volumes of his inability to grow-up compared to his friends that have successful careers and Isaac has a baby on the way. JGL does a great job of being charming and yet believable lost.
My favorite part of the film was seeing Michael Shannon playing a drug dealer named Mr. Green. I’d just seen Midnight Special a couple of days before this and I’m definitely a Michael Shannon fan. Also in this film are Lizzy Caplan, Helene Yorke, Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer (second funniest part of the movie probably), and Tracy Morgan plus a couple of surprise cameos that I’ll leave out as to not ruin the surprise. Mindy Kaling and Seth Rogen have some of the funniest moments in the film especially a surprise text message string that Rogen has with someone on Sarah’s (Kaling) phone. Glazer and Mackie have the other set of best comedic interactions one of which I remember seeing in the trailer that felt extremely stupid, but in context of the film is rather hilarious.
If you skipped this film it’s completely understandable, but if you’ve ever laughed at Seth Rogen or you’re just a JGL fan then it is definitely worth a watch. I found myself really enjoying it and knowing that I’ll be snagging this to put on my bottom shelf with my other Christmas movies. However, this isn’t a family friendly Christmas film, but it still managed to have a lot of the moments one expects from one without it feeling condescending or disingenuous.