As a fan of Seth Rogen and his films, I thoroughly enjoyed this attempt at a new holiday-season comedy classic. While “The Night Before” is affected by a few speed bumps in comedy, it manages to outnumber these lulls with scenes full of hysterical shenanigans, setting itself apart as one of the best winter comedies of its kind. For the film’s target audience (17-30), a hilarious and memorable experience is all but guaranteed.
Jonathan Levine’s “The Night Before” follows three best friends whose growing responsibilities as adults means that this Christmas will be their last opportunity to carry out their partying traditions. The main protagonist Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a deadbeat 30-year old who doesn’t exactly have his life together, so when he comes across three tickets to the biggest Christmas party in all of New York, the Nutcracker Ball, he knows that this last Christmas with his friends will be the greatest. Isaac (Seth Rogen) is on the verge of becoming a father, and on his last night with his two best friends, his wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) gives him a small gift filled with an assortment of drugs to fuel the crazy night ahead. Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) is an up-and-coming NFL star and social media sensation, whose fame makes it difficult to spend time with his friends. The three get involved in a variety of crazy sex-and-drug filled antics, until they finally arrive at the Nutcracker Ball, New York’s ultimate Christmas party.
First and foremost, “The Night Before” is funny. At least for those who might laugh at an uncomfortably drugged-out Seth Rogen making a complete fool of himself whenever possible. Rogen’s drug-episode scenes are undoubtedly the film’s best, right next to his first interaction with surprise guest-star James Franco as the possibly bisexual character James Franco. The on-screen chemistry between the two is second to none, and their best-friendship in real-life shines through their interactions. The entire cast has good chemistry, likely a result of their real-life friendships as well. From Rogen as Isaac to Michael Shannon as the creepy drug-dealer “Mr. Green,” and even to comedian Nathan Fielder as Joshua the Red Bull Hummer limo driver, the entire cast was phenomenal. Even Miley Cyrus was great, and she’s all but insane.
The soundtrack is largely what you’d expect from a modern Christmas movie aimed at adults: a mix of holiday music, with some Wu Tang Clan, Kanye and Miley Cyrus thrown in. The soundtrack isn’t exactly a groundbreaking original score, but what does play through the background fits, and it fits well. The musical scenes are spread out enough to stay fun when they do come around, and they’re done well (the Miley scene in particular, and I’m not even a fan).
Unfortunately, there are a few points during the film that things slow down, humor either leaves the room attempted jokes fall flat. Fortunately, this happens only a few times, so it isn’t enough to really ruin the entire experience. The occasional break from gut-busting comedy is almost necessary, and some of the more emotional scenes actually felt sincere.
While “The Night Before” could have gotten away with being a senseless comedy, there was an important (and for those of us adapting to adulthood, extremely relevant) message about friendship and responsibilities. While Ethan may not have his life together, his two best friends are faced with exponentially growing responsibilities with age, and can’t afford to spend as much time together. This underlying message about growing up and facing responsibilities, while having to deal with not having as much time for friends, is one that likely resonates with many college students and recent graduates, as it’s something I can relate to myself.
“The Night Before” was a blast to watch. From Rogen’s ridiculous drug induced episodes to some of the more tender moments between a group of friends who value each other as family, there is a lot to enjoy here. I highly recommend this film for most of my peers and close friends, but it might be best that kids and parents “chiggity check” themselves before they “riggity wreck” themselves.
Or just not see this movie. That works too.
Rating: 4 stars