It’s safe to say my Christmas spirit was waning due to last week’s yuletide slapping in Love The Coopers. It was so egregious an assault that I looked at the new Seth Rogen film The Night Before and felt gunshy about doing another Christmas film so quickly. I mean, it’s just barely the middle of November and I have seen close to four hours of Christmas themed cinema. Luckily the track record with Seth, Evan Goldberg and 50/50 director Johnathan Levine is a good one.
Goldberg and Rogen have collaborated on some interesting films the last eight years, pulling from different themes and genres to always bring the audience something a little different with their fan favorite brand of comedy. It all started with 2007’s Superbad, the sort of autobiographical teen comedy the duo had always dreamed of making. Then the bromance began with James Franco and Rogen in Pineapple Express, a stoner action flick. Since this point the local guys from Point Grey have done comic books (The Green Hornet), the apocalypse (This Is The End), supposedly war starting political satire (The Interview) and now a Christmas film.
It has to be said that this film is definitely welcome in this category because as many hits there are in this department there are many, many terrible films (as has already been demonstrated this year.) The Night Before is a fresh breath of weed infused fresh air that may go into the collection of great adult Christmas comedies. The most important thing for any Christmas comedy is to have fun and celebrate the season, which the movie does fantastically well.
The movie follows three friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon Levitt), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) who have a Christmas Eve tradition of partying into the small hours of Christmas Day. This was a tradition set by the three after Ethan’s parents died in a car accident ten years earlier and now the men are at different crossroads in their lives. Isaac’s wife is due to give birth to their first child any day and Chris is a popular pro athlete with endorsement deals and a rising celebrity status. Ethan still has yet to find his path in life, pining for “the one who got away” months earlier.
The main goal of their Christmas evenings out together is to find the elusive “Nutcracker’s Ball,” a nigh mythical party where the guys believe “dreams will come true.” Working as a waiter at a private function, Ethan manages to steal three invitations to this party from the coat check room and sets the stage for the last Christmas Eve adventure for him and his friends. To add to the fun, Isaac’s wife (played by the hilarious Jillian Bell) has given him a little care package of drugs including mushrooms, cocaine and molly to liven up the evening.
The resulting craziness of this film is hilarious dialogue in a well paced adventure comedy through the streets of New York with some really funny supporting work from Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer as a self proclaimed Christmas villain or “The Grinch, The Wet Bandits and Hans Gruber all rolled into one”.
The scene stealer is definitely Michael Shannon who plays Mr. Green, the three friends high school weed dealer who they contact to buy for Chris’s team quarterback. Everything is ethereal about Mr. Green. They contact him through a mysterious pay phone, his car appears under a snowy street lamp and one by one he gives them sage advice as he smokes joints with them. In the “A Christmas Carol” world, Mr. Green is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future and who better to play it with so much intensity than Michael Shannon in probably my favorite performance of his this year.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say if you liked This Is The End and found a way to check out The Interview during that debacle last year, you will thoroughly enjoy The Night Before. Seth Rogen brings such a love and passion that makes his films more than just mere comedic fodder. There’s a self awareness and acknowledgement of personal growth that seems to be a consistent theme in his films and I think it works well with the demographic they reach for. This is something I’m sure Adam Sandler’s camp is vastly jealous of. I really enjoyed myself at The Night Before and give it a four out of five.