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The Night Before - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Night Before
Directing: B-
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B-
Editing: B

Seth Rogen is a funny guy, but if he's making movies with no clear intent other than to make us laugh, he might want to give up on underlying themes that are too serious for the silliness that audiences come for. He and James Franco did this best with 2013's This Is the End, a comedy that wasn't perfect but still didn't waste any time on some contrived version of "heart." They aimed for the same vibe and rather missed the mark with last year's The Interview. Now, with The Night Before, a Christmas comedy that strains to be irreverent, they would up somewhere in the middle.

You'll find plenty to laugh at in this movie, such as Seth Rogen's soon-to-be-a-father Isaac tripping on mushrooms, and eventually throwing up in the middle of Midnight Mass while wearing is holiday sweater with the Star of David on it. All of this is indicated in the trailer, which, unfortunately and as usual, makes the movie look like it's way funnier than it is. But the funny parts are pretty damn funny. On the other hand, the pointless parts -- of which there are nearly as many -- are pretty damn pointless.

So, The Night Before is a bit uneven. The premise lacks the substance it thinks it has: three best friends have been spending Christmas Eve together for fifteen years, since Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents to a drunk driver crashing into them. Isaac and mutual friend Chris (Anthony Mackie) stepped in to be Ethan's surrogate family for the holidays. But now, Chris is a famous athlete product spokesman (a transparent means for Red Bull product placement in a whole lot of this movie), and Isaac is about to settle down with a family. They've all decided this tradition of a wild Christmas Eve has to come to an end. This year is, as the title indicates, the last one.

Isaac's wife (Jillian Bell) gives him a bag of drugs to play with, but being inexperienced with it, has no concept of appropriate proportions. Isaac's solution to freaking out on the mushrooms is to snort cocaine and pop a few unidentified pills. The whole schtick with his being ripped on drugs is actually pretty funny for a while, but then goes on for way too long.

Ethan, the only one of the three who hasn't found some real stability in his personal or professional life, steals tickets to the exclusive Christmas Eve party -- "The Nutcracker Ball" -- they've tried and failed to get into all these years. This is their ultimate quest in the movie, while resentments, conflicts and apologies occur in turn between these longtime friends. The story, of course, is just a thin excuse to get to the comedy. If the excuse is going to be thin, though, we should be getting to the comedy with more regularity. A flashback to that first Christmas Eve gets weirdly sad for a movie meant to be so fun, or with such a weak premise. There are several fun cameos, at least: Mindy Kaling as a woman who accidentally switches phones with Isaac; James Franco as the guy she's trying to hook up with; Miley Cyrus as herself at the Nutcracker Ball; Michael Shannon as a stoner pot dealer with vague references to A Christmas Carol that never go anywhere concrete.

This will be a fun movie to watch on Netflix in a few weeks, something you don't feel obligated to pay close attention to. When things grab your attention, they'll be worth watching and make you laugh. You can ignore the rest. Seeing this in the theatre might leave you at moments feeling restless.

Anthony Mackie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Seth Rogen rock the Christmas sweaters in the occasionally-rocking NIGHT BEFORE.

Overall: B-
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