The Night Before (2015)

The Night Before (2015)
  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Jonathan Levine
  • Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, James Franco, Miley Cyrus


Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been friends since childhood, and for a decade, their yearly Christmas Eve reunion has been an annual night of debauchery and hilarity. Now that they’re entering adulthood, the tradition is coming to an end, and to make it as memorable as possible, they set out to find the Nutcracka Ball – the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.


  • Have you ever been at a party, had a few too many drinks, said (and did) some things you might regret, and woke up with a flaming hangover (I know I have)? That my friends, is the movie equivalent of watching 2015’s The Night Before (my newest review). This is a film that needed four writers to knock out its script. I find that interesting since everything is pretty much improvised (sloppily) the whole way through. “Night” is vexatious, tiresome, annoying, and oh yeah, it’s a stoner comedy. Cue Seth Rogen spewing Evan Goldberg dialogue, inhaling mounds of shrooms, and giving everyone the usual imagery of sticky ickiness. In the immortal words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bob, I haven’t taken leave of my senses, I’ve come to them.” For me, my senses say to see this flick only if someone pays for your ticket. Natch!

    So brilliant doing supporting work in Steve Jobs (one of 2015’s best), Rogen regresses incredibly this time around. He basically plays a curly-haired doofus who gets wasted for the film’s entire running time. His character is father-to-be Isaac. Isaac, accompanied by his two best friends (Ethan played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Chris played by Anthony Mackie), have a Christmas tradition. Every December 24th, they hit New York City for some serious debauchery. Along with getting totally inebriated, they also have other traditions like eating egg drop soup, singing Run-D.M.C. Karaoke-style, hanging out at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and playing foot piano to the tunage of Mr. Kanye West. They’ve been partaking in this yuletide lore for 14 years. Why? Because Ethan’s parents died in a car accident via 2001 and his buddies wanted to be there for him during some trying times. Here’s the rub however: This is the last time Isaac, Chris, and Ethan are gonna hang out on Christmas Eve. Isaac’s wife is about to give birth and Chris is a star football player (he won’t have time). Finally, everyone is getting older and the need to move on is evident.

    In The Night Before, all the shananigans culminate with these dudes hitting the ultimate party (The Nutcracker Ball). The journey involves Isaac taking a ton of drugs given to him by his wife (huh?), Ethan trying to hook up with the girl that broke his heart (Diana played by Lizzy Caplan), and Chris trying to score some weed to impress the messiah quarterback he plays next to (Aaron Hill as Tommy Owens). There’s some engrossing cameos (James Franco, Miley Cyrus, Tracey Morgan), an extreme, bathroom sex scene, and comparing penises on a smartphone. I laughed once and with this being a so-called comedy, it’s safe to say that I won’t render a recommendation.

    Ultimately, The Night Before’s main culprit has to be the screenplay along with Jonathan Levine’s haphazard direction. The actors/actresses speak with a certain banality while trying too hard for audience laughs. As they ramble along in idle fashion, brief revelations about the importance of holiday cheer somehow seep through. That didn’t keep me from deeming “Night” as almost unwatchable.

    In the end, if you disliked This Is The End and The Interview (I’m in that camp), you won’t be persuaded to see The Night Before. After all, they’re all made by the same personal. My rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Of note: To get into the Xmas spirit, watch Bill Murray’s Scrooged instead. It’s angry, it’s overacted, and Richard Donner directs outside the text. However, the one-liners resonate much better. “The bitch hit me with a toaster” sounds funnier than “we did not kill Jesus” repeated over and over.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • ‘Twas the month before Christmas, and comedies are coming along so few,
    but in returns a naughty comedy featuring the Seth Rogen crew.
    Their humor is funny, if I may say so up front,
    I mean who wouldn’t laugh when grown men use words like dick, jizz, or cunt?
    And so they bring us a new movie, this time it won’t be banned,
    but will this comedy bring cheer this season or end up getting slammed?

    The Night Before comes from the team that brought us This is the End, Neighbors, and “almost” The Interview. However, with Starbucks taking the heat for the Christmas cup wars going on, we can rest assured that this movie won’t be banned.

    Since Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) became an orphan when his parents passed away, he, Isaac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) were there for him on Christmas Eve, sparking what would become a yearly tradition of going to a karaoke bar, eating Chinese, and getting drunk out of their minds. With their yearly reunions possibly coming to an end with their lives leading them towards different directions, they get one final opportunity to visit the Holy Mecca of Christmas parties and try to find the location.

    The night starts with the gang doing the usual (or rather what we have constantly seen in commercials). The almost offensive sweaters, the trio playing Kanye’s Runaway on the giant piano at FAO Schwarz.

    But then Isaac’s drugs kick in.

    Given to him by his wife no less as a present, but unlike his vomiting scene where Isaac’s wife tells him to “swallow it like a girl would,” we instead are choked with laughs and chuckles that are hard to repress. JGL and Seth Rogen have worked before, so their chemistry is definitely at display. It’s hard to tell whether they are acting or merely just having fun with one another. But the moments where Ilana Glazer as Rebecca Grinch, a home alone character that grew up to be a woman that thwarts Chris’ night does steal the moments away from the third member, Anthony Mackie. Mackie merely plays a roided up mid thirties football star, and is the oddest one in the trio, which will make most think “where’s James Franco when you need him?” (Don’t worry; he’ll honeydick you in the film at some point).

    But whoever came up with the idea of having Michael Shannon as a father like pot dealer should receive as much praise as the person that came up with a coked up Michael Cera in This is the End.

    JGL plays a man stuck in the past with some deep issues, but besides the opening act, we don’t see much of him being a burnout. Once the fiesta begins, he’s just as normal as the others, but it would have been nice to see all the odd jobs he had before he was an elf at a holiday party, or hear the music he made (probably some mixtapes for his ex).
    But the laughs do deliver. Even if fart and dick jokes aren’t your style, the movie blends in immaturity with adult themed humor that makes it relatable to all. Sure, The Night Before is dressed with holiday sweaters, but it’s laced with enough shrooms and cocaine that’ll make your trip awesome (unlike Isaac’s trip).

    So start your holiday season right and put on your colorful sweaters,
    and find time to watch the film; it is like last year’s The Interview…only better.

  • The message may be familiar and the execution formulaic, but The Night Before brims with fanciful anarchy and the immeasurable charms of its very talented cast.

    The expositional but zippy prologue establishes the back story: Ethan Miller (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was orphaned after losing both his parents in a car accident before the holidays. His high school buddies, Isaac Greenberg (Seth Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie), raise his spirits by vowing that Christmas is now all about friendship and fun. They create a new holiday tradition of donning Christmas sweaters, playing the piano at FAO Schwartz, performing karaoke, and generally having drunken fun. As the years pass, the fun begins to wane as Isaac and Chris take on more adult responsibilities, the former settling down with his wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) whilst the latter focuses on his football career.

    The film takes us to Christmas Eve in the present day as Isaac and Chris take on their most serious responsibilities thus far. Isaac and Betsy are about to have a baby; Chris is blowing up on social media and is on the verge of being accepted by his more famous football colleagues. Ethan, meanwhile, is lamenting the loss of his girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan) and still conceptualising the concept album that doesn’t seem like it will ever come into existence. In an attempt to get Ethan to grow up, Isaac and Chris decide to discontinue their annual holiday tradition. This year will be the last and a Christmas miracle occurs: Ethan discovers three tickets to the elusive and exclusive Nutcracka Ball, the Holy Grail of holiday parties, and all signs point to their last Christmas Eve debauch being the best one ever.

    Naturally, things don’t quite go according to plan, though everything that happens reinforces the power of friendship and the eventual transition from stunted man-child to full-fledged adult for each of the trio. For starters, drugs are in the mix – whether in the form of the box of narcotics given to Isaac by Betsy, or the ones they keep purchasing from Mr. Green (Michael Shannon, deploying his morose intensity to fine comic effect), their old high school dealer who also serves as father figure and guardian angel. The Night Before owes much to both Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Their limo driver (Nathan Fielder) harks back to Scrooged’s David Johansen. All three friends get individual glimpses of their past, present and future. It may not be original, but the concept is cleverly and sparingly done.

    The Nutcracka Ball sequence isn’t as climactic as it should have been. Neither is the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” scene, but Gordon-Levitt’s puppy dog charisma really sells the moment. In fact, The Night Before is predominantly powered by its sparkling cast, which also includes Mindy Kaling and Ilana Glazer. The women may be this side of underused but all bring refreshing doses of liveliness, warmth and humour to the proceedings. Gordon-Levitt and Mackie are great, but Rogen is the undisputed highlight as the straitlaced soon-to-be dad who hilariously goes through quite a drug-fueled trip.

    Rogen is so exceptional that he frequently threatens to hijack the film, but the camaraderie between the three leads keeps the film on track. Nevertheless, once Rogen’s Isaac gets the drugs in his system, Rogen’s performance pushes The Night Before to some, pardon the pun, amazing highs. His video plea to his future self – “Do NOT have this baby!” – is not only funny, but is the first crack in the facade of a man who has been nothing but a rock for Betsy, who frets about being a good mother. His anxieties about parenthood (as well as being a Jew married to a Gentile) hit a deliriously weird peak during midnight mass, where he hisses at a baby he imagines has been cursing him. There’s also an uproarious sequence where he engages in a text conversation with a stranger who sends him a picture of his penis, and seriously considers performing oral sex with said stranger.

    Rogen truly outdoes himself in this film. Perhaps it’s no accident that his Christmas sweater is emblazoned with an unmissable Star of David for Rogen is the brightest star in this most entertaining film and its absolute comic messiah.

    Click here for more reviews at the etc-etera site

  • Let me tell you about one of the funniest Christmas movies of all time. Friends who have drifted apart get back together for a Christmas Eve quest in New York City. The night turns into a wild, drug-fueled adventure which includes hallucinations, a Santa Claus who’s under the influence, an ill-timed encounter at a midnight mass and a major plot point involving a cameo by a very famous celebrity. There are jokes about sexuality, male body parts, sexting, and a baby acting like an adult, as well as friendships between Christians and Jews and the clash of cultures between their religions during the holiday season. Meanwhile, there are subplots concerning one of the friends freaking out about becoming a father, one friend regretting that he let his ex-girlfriend get away and conflicts between the guys about the state of their friendship, their growing differences (stemming from one of them having gotten wealthy), anxiety about what the future holds for them and a character with supernatural powers trying to help heal the rift between the friends. The movie that I just described is 2011’s “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas”. And everything listed above also applies to 2015’s “The Night Before” (R, 1:41). But don’t get the idea that just because one seems to repeat so much from the other that these movies can’t both be funny.

    In the raunchy holiday comedy “The Night Before”, old friends whose lives are moving in different directions get together for one last Christmas Eve celebration with just the three of them. Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a struggling musician who hasn’t done much with his life and, at 33, finds himself making a few dollars by playing an elf at a hotel Christmas party. He’s also lonely, having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Diana (Lizzy Caplan). Isaac (Seth Rogen) is Ethan’s proudly Jewish friend, who is newly married to Betsy (Jillian Bell) – and they’re about to have their first child. Chris (Anthony Mackie) is a 6-year NFL veteran who’s finally coming into his own and having his first great season. Chris owes his newfound prowess on the football field to steroids, but he’s unashamed and is thoroughly enjoying his enhanced fame. All three men have issues, but they’ve always been there for each other.

    Ethan lost both his parents in a car crash shortly before Christmas 2001, leading Isaac and Chris to cheer him up by beginning what became a tradition of enjoying a night on the town each Christmas Eve. Every December 24th, they stop by the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, visit FAO Schwartz (to dance on the big keyboard from the movie “Big”), eat Chinese food and go to their favorite bar to do karaoke and drink. They have fun, but one Christmas Eve tradition has eluded them all these years – finding and attending NYC’s fabled underground party, The Nutcracker Ball. But this year is different. While on elf coat check duty, Ethan lifted three invitations from a snooty rich guy’s coat, and is beyond excited that he and his two best buds will cap off their last Christmas Eve together at the city’s most exclusive party.

    It becomes clear as these three best friends go through their annual routine that this year it will be anything but. In preparation for the Nutcracker Ball (and to impress his team’s quarterback), Chris calls the guys’ old high school drug dealer, Mr. Green (Michael Shannon), so he can buy some weed. Unfortunately for Chris, his party preparations are frustrated by a strange girl (Ilana Glazer) whom he keeps running into. This isn’t a problem for Isaac, who has gotten a “head” start thanks to a box of assorted drugs that his wife gave him as an early Christmas present, leading to all sorts of altered states for him over the course of the night. Ethan keeps running into his ex and her best friend (Mindy Kaling). In the midst of all this (besides all the parallels to “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas”), there are moments in this movie which pay homage to Christmas classics as varied as “A Christmas Carol”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Home Alone” and “Die Hard” (among others).

    “The Night Before” is better than I expected, but not as good as the other holiday movies it references. Full disclosure – I’m not a Seth Rogen fan and don’t find him funny – usually. However, I’m careful to keep an open mind with all movies, and I admit that Rogen was very good in this one. Actually, the entire movie was well cast with actors who are enjoyable to watch. Some of the jokes and sight gags seemed kind of random, but more hit their marks than missed, and the movie has a strong narrative thread on which to hang them. Even with its many echoes of Christmas films past, this movie works pretty well on its own terms. I still think that the Harold and Kumar movie did better at what this one tries to do, but “The Night Before” is better than most Christmas comedies. “B+”

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