“The Night Before” began its theatrical run across the country starting today through Columbia Pictures.
In 2001, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents and his two best friends, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) became his new family. For 13 years, they celebrated the same Christmas tradition of drinking, smoking, and forgetting about the bad parts of the year while they sang karaoke, ate Chinese food, and embraced the incredible view of The Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
With the guarantee that this will be the last year the tradition will be celebrated, Ethan is feeling more alone than ever. His girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan) left him three months ago while Isaac and his wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) are expecting their first child and Chris has become a famous football player that gets ambushed by the public whenever he steps outside.
The one thing that has gotten away from their holiday festivities all these years is the exclusive Christmas party known as The Nutcracker Ball. After Ethan stumbles onto a way to get in, he decides to make this the most memorable Christmas he and his best friends have ever experienced.
Written by Evan Goldberg (director of “This is The End, common co-writer with Seth Rogen), Kyle Hunter, Jonathan Levine (“50/50,” “Warm Bodies”), and Ariel Shaffir and directed by Jonathan Levine, “The Night Before” is probably much funnier than you’re expecting and even puts a welcome spin on what makes us human all while juggling the hectic holiday season.
Other than the humor in the film, what may catch you off guard is that “The Night Before” has a lot to say about not only the holiday season but also relationships with family and friends, loneliness, and is somehow more in tune with what makes us human than the average R-rated comedy. As you get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain friendships because of your own responsibilities and life in general getting in the way. You see and feel this through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Ethan. He is watching everyone around him start a family, become popular, and progress in life while he feels like he’s standing still or the one spoke in the wheel that isn’t moving.
Even though his role is fairly minor, the comedy wouldn’t be the same without Michael Shannon’s Mr. Green. Mr. Green is the local drug dealer that Ethan, Isaac, and Chris used to buy from while they were in high school. Mr. Green is basically the ghost of past, present, and future all wrapped up into a humorously calm drug distributor. His insights into the world are surprisingly on point as Michael Shannon proves he can jump from genre to genre with ease.
It’s also cool to realize that Ethan, Isaac, and Chris all represent a time period related to the Christmas season: Ethan doesn’t want to let go of the past, Chris really enjoys how much people love him in the present, and Isaac is worried about what the future holds since he’ll soon be having a baby that he secretly doesn’t want. The film is pieced together impressively as its structure is quite solid as is its storytelling.
There are quite a few humorous moments to latch onto; the love for Run DMC, Jillian Bell referring to Seth Rogen as her Dwayne Johnson (rock), and Judaism and Christianity clashing in the most disastrous of ways, but in all honesty this is Seth Rogen’s time to shine. He is absolutely hysterical in “The Night Before.” He spends the majority of the film drugged out of his mind and it is laugh out loud funny to witness. Rogen’s texting scene at the dinner table is one of the funniest things to be put to film all year and the same can be said for the cell phone video he made in the bathroom about his unborn child while being high on mushrooms and cocaine.
“The Night Before” isn’t just exceptional because it’s a comedy that actually delivers the laughs, but it also offers something more. It embodies the Christmas spirit in the most human way imaginable while also representing what it means to become an adult and continuing to struggle with the wants and desires of life that only seem to increase exponentially as we mature. This is a comedy that is heartfelt, meaningful, and uproarious. Seth Rogen has never been funnier. “The Night Before” is the incredible R-rated comedy “Trainwreck” should have been. This is the funniest film of 2015, hands down.