November 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Night Before (2015)

I am not normally the kind of guy who likes Christmas movies before Thanksgiving, outside of the obvious year round exceptions (A Nightmare Before Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, Black Christmas, you get the idea). Still, sometimes theatrical release schedules make the decision for you when you start seeing them in any given year. This year The Night Before got me in front of a Yuletide themed film prior to turkey-day this year. And you know what? It was a blast. It is a buddy movie, a drug comedy, an awkward coming of age tale, and it is all wrapped up like A Christmas Carol. Yes, I liked it. Smart? Hardly, but certainly funny and surprisingly heartfelt.

The movie was directed and co-written by Jonathan Levine, who previously helmed the surprisingly decent Warm Bodies (he also wrote the adaptation) and the excellent 50/50. The Night Before sees him reteaming with 50/50 stars Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen. On the screenplay side, he paired with Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Evan Goldberg (The Interview, This is the End). The result is a nicely crafted, laugh out loud, low brow, big heart comedy that is probably a good deal better than it should be.

It is kind of funny, as I sit here thinking about the movie, it has been a few days since I have seen it and feel my ability to compose an appropriate review is not really where it should be. Still, I feel like I should take a stab. You also probably think this is a weird thing to see in the middle of a review. Let me just be blunt, if what follows does not work, let me say that I really enjoyed the film, it was laugh out loud funny, not overly serious, yet retains a good heart that has an impact. Definitely a Christmas movie for those who enjoy sophomoric and vulgar humor mixed in with the seasonal feelings.

The Night Before tells the story of three friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie). Each Christmas Eve the three get together and celebrate a string of traditions that began many years before following the unexpected deaths of Ethan’s parents. This goes on for a number years until this year, the last gathering. Their lives are going in different directions. What follows is a night of drugs, debauchery, and epic adventure.

Each of the three friends have their own reasons for why they have to stop the tradition, they all have different things going on. They begin their night innocently enough, but before long they find things begin to get out of hand. Just like the visitations of the Christmas ghosts upon Ebenezer Scrooge, these homies each have visitations from a figure helping them connect the dots of their life in the form of the night’s adventure.

The main three have great chemistry together, with Joseph Gordon Levitt showing again while he is one of the more interesting and versatile talents in Hollywood. There is nothing terrible realistic about this, but it is certainly believable. They are dealing with impending familial responsibilities, the pressure of a career, and losing the one thing you really care about over his own insecurities. There is some really good stuff here, but more often than that it is being completely silly, stupid, asinine, and I love it.

I am not really sure what else to say. I loved Michael Shannon in it and a few surprises that popped up along the way. It certainly plays to a certain audience, I think I fell well within the target.


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