Release: 28st March 2016
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holidays with a bang. As Isaac prepares to become a first-time father, the friends realize that their annual tradition is coming to a sad end. To make it as memorable as possible, they plan a night of debauchery and hilarity by searching for the Nutcracka Ball, the Holy Grail of Christmas parties in New York.
If you have ever seen a ‘Seth Rogen Movie’, then you’ll pretty much be up to speed with what to expect with The Night Before. For the uninitiated, expect 90 minutes of potty-mouthed drug humour where a group of friends get to hang out, ad-lib, and generally just goof around while getting paid to do so; and in the end, life lessons are learned. Hey, if it aint broke…
Director Jonathan Levine has worked with leads Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt previously on 50/50; a film that detailed the true-life bromance between two friends dealing with the fact that one of them has cancer. In The Night Before, cancer is replaced with dead parents, and an extra friend is thrown into the mix.
The film finds its most magical moments when it so lovingly plays off of the Christmas movie genre. We have nods to Charles Dickens, Home Alone, Clement Clarke Moore, It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, etc. Each of these references are worn wholeheartedly on the sleeves of the cast, and milked for every ounce of nostalgia available. Everyone in the film is game, and choosing to take proceedings to New York for this one feels spot on. There are also some great little cameos, including the outstanding Michael Shannon as terrifying teddy bear, Mr Green.
Naturally, many of the common Rogen-isms are available in plenty. An extended joke about Rogen’s Issac being high plays right through, and for the most part lands. While Anthony Mackie, gets the fun time Frankie role as nihilistic selfie-fiend Chris. His social game may well be on point, but the humour does ebb and flow here; in particular with the flimsy side story involving a Grinch-like street urchin. Levitt meanwhile, is left to do much of the film’s heavy-duty work. For the second time this year, his is a balancing act (see The Walk, pardon the pun) between working his comedy and dramatic chops. Ultimately, the efforts to bring some heart into The Night Before are rather successful, and we DO end up caring about these three men and their journey. The main problem is that, as much as The Night Before can sit in the pantheon of Christmas movies, it is a bit hard going in terms of potentially offensive humour. It would not have harmed to tone things down a bit, rather than simply demand the genre bend to their will. To this end, the film doesn’t quite have the universal ‘share’ quality that the likes of, say, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a film born from a similar breed of humour) has.
Plus, in all fairness, it might be time to see these guys stretch their boundaries a little now, and elevate things to the next level…or maybe that will come in the form of their next project Sausage Party. But I doubt it.
Film Grade: C
For some reason, this is an instance of cutting features from the DVD in favour of Blu-Ray. Unless the couple of extras on said Blu-Ray are worth the effort, you can probably settle for the DVD here. The collection of features (The Spirit of Christmas, Drunkest Santas on the Block, Midnight Mass with Nana, Whale Juice), and Gag Reel are all rather mundane, with little of note. For the most part, it shows a lot of the secondary characters trying their hardest to come across as funny.
The main feature, Making One Epic Party, is a tad better; if only for the moment when we witness Rogen taking direction on how to ‘react’ to a picture of someone’s…ahem…member.
Special Features Grade: C
Like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin; just with some holly-jolly cheer.