The Night Before
The Night Before may not be writer/director Jonathan Levine's best film, but it's bursting with a certain kind of raunchy Christmas cheer that's admirable and amusing. The perfect holiday stocking-stuffer thanks to its three hilarious leads.
Writer/director Jonathan Levine re-teams with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, while also adding Anthony Mackie to the mix with his R-rated raunchy Christmas comedy The Night Before. The Night Before may not be Levine’s best or most effective film to date, but it carries an unmeasurable amount of holiday cheer that makes it hard not to like and occasionally love. Rogen, Mackie and JGL give the film its much-needed energy, while Levine guides them through one wild night of festivities.
Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been best friends forever. They’ve also shared in on a Christmas tradition of going out and having a night on the town ever since Ethan’s parents died on Christmas when he was younger.
Now, the three consider each other the closest of family, but that starts to become a problem with Isaac having a kid on the way and Chris slowly starting to become overwhelmed by his newfound fame.
The two just simply don’t have the time or energy to hangout with their good friend Ethan on Christmas anymore, which is why they all agree to celebrate their yearly tradition one last time before going their separate ways.
The Night Before follows the trio of dudes as they experience one of the most unforgettable nights of their entire lives, bar-hopping and getting into generally crazy shit in New York City.
Writer/director Jonathan Levine last worked with Rogen and JGL in 50/50 — a hilarious and yet touching “bro” comedy that managed to flip all expectations on itself. He then did the same with his zombie romance Warm Bodies.
Levine has always known how to properly balance tones, shifting almost effortlessly between emotions. One second your laughing your ass off and then the next second you’re honestly crying your eyes out as Levine expertly shifts his films into real works of life that never feel phony or forced.
Expecting that much from him walking into The Night Before left me initially disappointed. But then I thought more about the film and what it did achieve and suddenly a smile came across my face.
The Night Before is a film that best works as a Christmas comedy, giving up some of its deeper drama for a more approachable dose of yuletide cheer. It’s a film that promises its viewers a jolly good time and delivers, while occasionally sprinkling in some of that more dramatic depth that Levine has been known to juggle with ease.
Sure, the film’s core story doesn’t spend too much time sifting through its heavier material, but Levine doesn’t leave it out entirely. He instead focuses on the unbreakable bond between his three leads, led with an endless amount of humor by Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie.
Levine understands how strong the chemistry between these three are and wisely decides to highlight the entire film with that fact, never allowing even the smallest of jokes to slip away from one of his more-than-capable leads.
Rogen might get crap for doing the same thing over and over, but here he shows yet again that it works and it works well. He has some of the most memorable material of the film, including him tripping out on mushrooms at a church, which has been sort of spoiled in all of the trailers and TV spots.
JGL and Anthony Mackie don’t fear Rogen’s sharp comedic skills and instead bring us two more equally hilarious characters. JGL‘s may be the most calm of the three, but he still manages to squeeze in a few shining moments.
Anthony Mackie reminds us all that he’s such a great actor when given roles in comedy films. I love his work in the Avengers films, but I much prefer watching him make me laugh in films like The Night Before or the under-rated Michael Bay flick Pain & Gain.
There’s a sense of hollow confidence that Mackie portrays perfectly in the film and it’s an absolute riot watching him eventually confront it.
The Night Before might not come packed with too many surprises, but it’s still a gift worthy of opening and enjoying. Levine’s latest is a kind-spirited dose of R-rated humor that is hopefully going to hit home this holiday season. It’s been far too long since we’ve had a proper R-rated Christmas film to quote and watch on a yearly tradition, aside from maybe Bad Santa.
The Night Before doesn’t quite reach that level of fame, but it comes close thanks to Levine’s mostly balanced writing and directing. He could have easily given the film more to explore and chew on had he chose to infuse a little more drama, but perhaps that might have offset the film’s easy-going nature and general likability.
I choose to believe that Levine simply wanted to tell a story that was a little sillier and less serious, while still managing to balance in a few solid bits of drama into the equation without ever really offsetting things in a bigger way.
The Night Before isn’t anyone’s best film, but it’s memorable Christmas film that contains enough humor to please most this holiday season.