Synopsis: 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 Holy Grail of Christmas parties in New York.
Release Date: November 20, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
After tackling TV show heroes, the apocalypse, and even Kin Jong Un, it seemed only a matter of time before comedic writing duo Seth Rogen (Neighbors) and Evan Goldberg (This Is The End) took on the Christmas movie. However, after The Interview, it became clear that maybe giving Goldberg and Rogen unfettered control wasn’t the best idea. So for The Night Before – Rogen & Co.’s send up of a Christmas movie (Home Alone, Die Hard, etc.) – the duo has enlisted some help.
Rather than direct the movie themselves, Rogen and Goldberg have Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) at the helm, and rather than put Rogen solely at the center, the film flanks the actor by Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk).
For all intents and purposes, The Night Before has the classic Christmas story set-up. Three friends reunite for a holiday tradition: a Christmas Eve marathon in which they partake of as many Christmas-time festivities as possible. However, this year the group is putting an end to things. Put simply, life has caught up with two of the three thirty-somethings; Chris (Mackie) is a burgeoning sports star and Isaac (Rogen) is about to become a father, while Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) is stuck in a rut.
For Chris and Isaac, the night is meant to give closure to their tradition, whereas Ethan wants nothing more than to hold onto the past. And as you’d expect, those two divergent ideals come to a head throughout the night.
But truthfully, The Night Before is about the journey – a wild ride through New York on Christmas Eve. It’s a combination of debauchery, drug usage, and sex, wrapped up in a way that feels very appropriate to the Rogen brand of comedy. Is it a little weird at times? Yes, but every Christmas movie has some element of fantasy to it. And it just so happens that The Night Before‘s brand of fantasy is more adult (read: R-rated humor) in nature.
If you can accept that Rogen, Mackie, and Gordon-Levitt are taking you on a ride then The Night Before will surely be a memorable one. The comedy fires at a rapid pace and never dwells too long on the same joke. There are moments of sincerity, drug-addled paranoia, and some fun cameos, all meant to keep the viewing experience light and breezy. At a little over 90 minutes, there are very few moments where the film drags, but more importantly, the humor lands much more often than it misses.
It seems strange to say that a movie in which Seth Rogen vomits in a church is an instant Christmas-time classic, but The Night Before feels that way. The main players are perfect in their roles, the supporting cast is peppered with some truly memorable and funny characters, and the story serves the humor better than you might think. If there is one negative to be said about the film, it’s that the humor is still well within Seth Rogen’s wheelhouse, but even those who detest the actor might find things to like about The Night Before. It’s an R-rated Christmas movie that deserves to be added to the December rotation.
Itâ’s been a while since a genuinely entertaining R-rated movie has come along, no less one set at Christmas time, so count The Night Before as a success on two fronts. The humor is relatable when it needs to be, goofy when the mood calls for it and even has a tiny bit of heart as well. Obviously, the bulk of the jokes are going to lean towards adult humor, but if you can tolerate a penis joke or two then The Night Before will deliver plenty of laughs. So much so, in fact, that you might be surprised how quickly it goes by.
What’s more impressive is how well The Night Before uses Christmas to its advantage, taking audiences through scenarios rarely put to film, especially not in an R-rated context. Where many comedies might be simply set at Christmas, The Night Before feels like a bona fide Christmas movie. That goes a long ways towards making the set-ups feel unique and keeping the humor snappy. It also doesn’t hurt that Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie feel very comfortable with the material.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jonathan Levine
- Screenwriter(s): Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir
- Story: Evan Goldberg
- Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Ethan), Seth Rogen (Isaac), Anthony Mackie (Chris Roberts), Jillian Bell (Betsy), Lizzy Caplin (Diana)
- Cinematographer: Brandon Trost
- Production Designer(s): Annie Spitz
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Marco Beltrami
- Country Of Origin: USA