Review: The Night Before
An annual Yule tide tradition of debauchery and recklessness is coming to an end for three man-children stumbling into adulthood. Initially, the unlikely trio of friends banded together to help distract one of their crew from the tragic death of his parents. Now, as one faces his first child, another grapples with fame, and the last holds on to the past, the triad steps out for one last night of drug-induced digressions and emotional insecurity.
The Night Before is the usually meeting of misguided earnestness, meta-commentary, and gross-out gags that make up the humour any film featuring Seth Rogen and his comic team. Here Isaac (Rogen), the expectant daddy, Chris (Anthony Mackie), the sudden football superstar, and Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the heartbroken kid who resists responsibility, set out on their ultimate Christmas Eve adventure.
They wear cute holiday sweaters – Isaac’s features the Star of David, naturally, which makes his detour to midnight mass particularly funny – and take to the streets, carrying with them plenty of internal struggle that is surely to come out in absurd ways only to be easily cured later by the magic of Christmas (and the formula of a 100-minute comedy).
Ethan comes armed with three passes to a long-coveted clandestine party, while Isaac is gifted a cache of drugs by his loving wife, and Chris rolls up in his Red Bull sponsored limo (Pabst is also a big sponsor, which isn’t too hard to tell).
So bad trips, homo-eroticism, sex, violence, and blood ensue. The group’s guide while dealing with untapped and interpersonal problems is Mr. Green, their pot-smoking high school teacher who sells weed from his dusty car, played by an quietly intimidating Michael Shannon, as is his tendency.
The laughs are genuine, but don’t have any particular staying power. The Night Before has some dull, perfunctory diatribes, and its inconsistent humour seems stressed when the film starts to bring in famous people to provide jokes that riff on their reputation – you know, the entirety of This is the End.
It’s another boys-club film; Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer, are given a few moments here are there to be funny. There are Die Hard references and discussions about penises, a fear of growing up and the tacit acknowledgement that these guys all need women to take care of them. It is the holiday season after all, though, so it doesn’t take much effort to make everything right in the world; it doesn’t take too much to be modesty funny either.