The premise of Seth Rogen's latest man-child comedy The Night Before,
along with the casting of three of mainstream cinemas most likable
actors, may seem like catnip to fans of Rogen's previous hits Knocked
Up, Superbad (both 2007) and 50/50 (2011). Yet while his best films
cleverly and carefully toe the line between dick- jokes and genuine
sweetness, The Night Before contains plenty of the former but previous
little of the latter. It also falls at the first comedy hurdle by
simply not being very funny despite some chemistry between its leads.
Best friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have got together every Christmas Eve to follow a ritual and party hard, initially started as a way to help Ethan get over the death of his parents. Only now, with Isaac expecting his first child with wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) and Chris enjoying late superstardom in the NFL, they decide that this Christmas will be their last. While his friends seem to be happy and maturing, Ethan seems to sleep-walking through life, earning money from a degrading job and heartbroken following his recent split with long-term girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan).
The most frustrating aspect of The Night Before are the frequent hints at the much better movie this could have been. The tender relationship between Chris and his mother, along with an expletive- laden selfie rant by a drug-addled Isaac freaking out at the imminent arrival of his child, prove only fleeting moments of sentiment and laugh-out-loud hilarity. Isaac and Chris both have potentially complex obstacles to overcome, but the movie deals with them routinely and thoughtlessly. And Ethan, admittedly played with an earnestness by Gordon-Levitt, makes for drippy company. Only the scenes between him and Diana provide any hint of spark to his character as the naturalistic back-and- forth between the pair make for a believable and likable recently-broken-up-couple-who-still- love-each-other.
So without the charm of Knocked Up, the awkward brotherly bonding of Superbad or the heart of 50/50, The Night Before is reduced to little more than dirty jokes, drug-taking and celebrity cameos. The final destination for the trio is the illusive Nutcracker Ball, for which Ethan has snagged tickets. When they get there, its hard to see what the fuss is all about, and appearances from James Franco and Miley Cyrus - appearing as themselves and mocking their own tabloid personas - feel unnecessary and forced. An extended role for Michael Shannon, popping up every now and then as pot dealer Mr Green, is easily the best character in the film, but even his impact is reduced when director Jonathan Levine tries to over-explain him and introduce a fantastical element into the story. You can pull it completely apart, but the films main crime is that is simply isn't funny enough.
The Night Before
Action / Comedy
The Night Before
Action / Comedy
Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been friends since childhood, and for a decade, their yearly Christmas Eve reunion has been an annual night of debauchery and hilarity. Now that they're entering adulthood, the tradition is coming to an end, and to make it as memorable as possible, they set out to find the Nutcracka Ball - the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
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February 20, 2016 at 05:22 AM