TL;DR – This movie is trying to be a lot of things, but never really succeeds at any of them
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
So we have hit December and that means that Christmas movies are upon us, and the first cab off the rank this year is The Night Before, so how is it, well, meh. To try and explain this film, imagine taking the comedic sensibilities of a usual Seth Rogan production (see Bad Neighbours, This is the End & The Interview) and smash it together with the iconography and themes of traditional Christmas movie. This is an interesting concept, but in practice, we get a slapdash amalgamation of the two rather than an interesting hybrid.
The basic premise of The Night Before, is 14 years ago Isaac Greenberg (Seth Rogan) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie) were consoling their friend Ethan Miller (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) after he lost both his parents days before Christmas. This started a tradition that the three of them would go out partying on Christmas Eve each year. Fast forward to the future and Isaac and Chris are starting to move on with their lives so they agree to have one last celebration before ending the tradition. Of course shenanigans occur, this is a comedy film, Isaac’s pregnant wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) gives him a box full of assorted drugs to enjoy on his one night off before their baby is born, Ethan stumbles across tickets to the Nutcracker Party, and infamous party that they have tried to find for years, and Chris is so focused on cultivating his fame (founded on steroid use) that he forces everyone to help him try and impress his fellow teammates.
All of this sounds like an interesting basis for a film, but for a film like this to work you have to care for the characters and this is the big problem with the Rogen style of comedy (drugs, nudity, sex scenes etc) as it creates very unlikable characters and frankly you just end up not caring. Will Ethen end up with Diana (Lizzy Caplan), who cares, oh no Chris is conflicted about his fame being built on steroid use, who cares? Honestly, a lot of this movie feels like they cribbed notes from an episode of How I Met Your Mother and then added all the things you can’t get away with on network TV. As well as this, it is the little things that start to annoy you, like how they try to do a commentary on how commercial our lives are becoming, whilst name dropping/ using product placement all the time, you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. Or how it tries to deal with issues such as race, but it does it in such a poor way and then moves on so quickly you have to wonder why they bothered.
To be fair, not everything is a mess, some of the jokes are quite funny, with a stand out being Issac getting himself stuck with his pregnant wife’s family at midnight mass whilst wearing a Star of David jumper and tripping on magic mushrooms. The problem is to get to these moments you have to slog through a lot of boring filler.
Look is it the worse film I have seen this year no, I’m looking at you Pixels (see review), it’s just a real missed opportunity to make something interesting and since I have not watched a really good film since The Dressmaker (see review), I am wondering if 2015 is going to end on a bit of a fizzle.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Jonathan Levine
Written by – Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Jonathan Levine & Ariel Shaffir
Starring – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon & Mindy Kaling
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 16; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R