The Night Before

The Night Before movie poster

Release: Friday, November 20, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Jonathan Levine; Kyle Hunter; Ariel Shaffir; Evan Goldberg

Directed by: Jonathan Levine

I was enjoying, for the most part, the latest incarnation of the Seth Rogen and Friends Show, finding myself more than a little amused by their storming of New York City in an effort to live it up one last time this Christmas Eve; finding comfort once more in the familiarity of their crassness and the simplicity of the mission: let’s get wasted and have a blast, maybe even learn a thing or two about each other in the process. (Yes, people actually get paid millions to do this.)

Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, Jason Mantzoukas shows up, dressed as one of two drunken Santa Clauses and wipes the smile from my face. This I don’t call a Christmas miracle. This I call a threat to a movie’s enjoyability. Seriously, this guy is the worst. Is this his talent, being a buzz kill? If the name’s not familiar, you’re either lucky or you haven’t caught many episodes of The League. In which case you are also lucky. Mantzoukas doesn’t appear for long in The Night Before but apparently it’s enough to cause me to go off on a rant about how much I dislike the characters he plays.

Where’s my egg nog? Ahh, there it is. Right. Now we can actually talk about the film.

It’s no secret Seth Rogen isn’t a man of great range. A few weeks ago he managed to impress me with his dramatic turn as Steve Wozniak in Danny Boyle’s intriguing examination of the late Apple CEO and he also played it somewhat straight as Ira Wright, an up-and-coming comedian in Judd Apatow’s underrated Funny People. However, nine times out of ten you know what you are going to get in a film bearing his name prominently on the poster.

The Night Before, in which he plays Isaac, a mild-mannered (when sober) thirty-something, is the long-lost lovechild of This is the End and Knocked Up. It’s a film that knows when the party should stop and embrace important life events like childrearing, relationship-building and aggressive product placing. While it will never be as good as vintage Rogen-inspired raucousness — I refer to the likes of Pineapple Express and Superbad — this collection of Yuletide yucks offers a suitably raunchy alternative to the saccharine stories about family and togetherness we’re about to be hit with in the coming weeks.

We’re introduced to Isaac and his buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) via a cringe-inducing voiceover that plays upon the titular poem, explaining how Ethan had lost both parents several Christmases ago and has since spent the holiday with his pals. Despite the support, he has found himself stuck in a rut while constantly running into obstacles in his personal and professional life. He’s no longer with his girl Diana (Lizzy Kaplan) and he works odd jobs, most recently as a miserable little elf.

The others take it upon themselves to make this Christmas the best one ever, as Chris’ NFL career is starting to take off and he finds himself with less time to spend hanging out, consumed ever more by social media and the associated vainglory. Betsy (Jillian Bell) hands her hubby (Rogen) a bag of drugs before they hit the town, reassuring him he’s earned himself a night of recklessness before properly settling down. Say no more, we know where this is all going. Mostly.

Along the way we bump lines, ingest psilocybin by the ounce, hallucinate in a manger, buy pot from Michael Shannon (can this guy do any wrong?), take relationship advice from Miley Cyrus, play some Goldeneye (yes, on N64!), promote Red Bull and even find time to reconcile past and present tensions in a subway car. All of this farce ultimately leads us to the Nutcracker party, the party anyone who’s anyone finds themselves at after midnight on Christmas Eve. That includes Ethan’s ex, which means you know the guy is bound for redemption sooner or later.

The Night Before settles on tried-and-true Rogen/Goldberg formula, simultaneously  mocking and embracing the spirit of Christmas by developing a none-too-surprisingly wholesome bromance between a never-more-stoned Rogen and his cronies. ‘Tis the season to be giggling uncontrollably, although I couldn’t call you a grinch if you wanted to take a pass on this hit.

JGL is a Wrecking Ball with Miley Cyrus in 'The Night Before'

Recommendation: The Night Before doesn’t rank amongst Rogen’s best but it’s a perfectly satisfying blend of juvenile humor and sight gags as well as heartfelt relationship building. (Interestingly it manifests as only the second time Evan Goldberg wrote a script without Rogen.) Save for a few questionable cameo appearances, this still manages to offer the quota of amusing supporting roles and it is nice to see Rogen reunited with Gordon-Levitt.

Rated: R

Running Time: 101 mins.

Quoted: “You have been such a Rock throughout this whole pregnancy. You are like my Dwayne Johnson.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.movie-torrents.net

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18 thoughts on “The Night Before

    • Once again you are too kind buddy. I think The Night Before is going to fly under the radar as it came out at a time where a lot of quality films are making their Thanksgiving debut. I can’t say this is my favorite among the Seth Rogen catalog but I have also seen much worse from him. That quote is pretty good, isn’t it? 😉

  1. I might give this a shot when it’s out on Netflix, Tom, I do like Gordon Levitt and Anthony Mackie, but Rogen is iffy.

    P.S. Btw, what film is your banner from? That’s a beautiful shot!

    • Haha thanks! The photo is actually one I took at a friend’s wedding from September of last year. Glad you liked it.

      • Wow really? That’s super cool man, you’re a very talented photographer, clearly. Just another talent you’ve got at your disposal eh? 😉

        • Ahh, goodness no. I happened to get lucky on that one. The lighting was perfect. It really came out as a happy accident really. No one knew I was taking that shot as it happened. Thanks very much for the kind words

  2. This was not on my radar, despite liking some of the cast, but seems that it is an alright watch. I might catch this at some stage. Great review Tom!

    • You’ll have to link me up to your review for it! It’s not the best of the Seth Rogen family of films but you could do a lot worse around this time of year. There are some genuinely funny scenes in this, mostly thanks to Mr Rogen and JGL.

      Thanks for the read!

    • Oh that church scene was great. I loved Rogen coming up on ‘shrooms too. Thats the sort of stuff he seems to excel at. Getting fucked up.

  3. I’ve seen this but haven’t written a review yet. For a significant amount of the film I was not enjoying this, then somewhere past the halfway point I started to laugh. Not a lot, but enough to where I didn’t absolutely hate the film. You could say that I tolerated it.

    • It definitely isn’t packed to the brim as some of Rogen’s films have been before. And I loathed some of the random supporting characters here

  4. Fine review Tom. This one just doesn’t interest me. For me Seth Rogan is as entertaining is a bad rash and those trailers are some of the worst I’ve seen this year. Still it doesn’t sound like a total dud.

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