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Now Presenting: A Review of The Night Before

Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen struck comedy gold with the 2013 release of This is the End, creating a fun, meta, stoner film. Thereafter, they tried their hand with a new absurdist comedy The Interview, a controversial film that never made it to a worldwide release. For some reason, I’ve always associated This is the End, The Interview, and the film I’m reviewing now, The Night Before, as a pseudo-series. The three are produced by Seth and Evan’s Point Grey Pictures and feature much of the usual suspects, after all. As an on-again, off-again fan of Rogen comedies, I was excited when The Night Before was first released in theaters for the holiday season. Since it’s, once again, the holiday season, I figured it’d be nice to look back at the film.

Unlike the other two films I mentioned, The Night Before is directed by Jonathan Levine, instead of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Jonathan Levine did, however, direct Point Grey Pictures’ debut film 50/50, which starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogens. The film was written by Levine, Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir. Although The Interview was an easy benchmark to release (due to happenstance), The Night Before was only a modest success at best at the box-office. Although it didn’t outmatch 50/50, it had a considerably higher-budget and left theaters with about half of what This is the End was able to attain. Hopefully, the Christmas-themed subject-matter has helped it maintain sustainability at the home-market. It’s the reason I’m reviewing the film, after all.

The Night Before follows three childhood friends who annually reunite on Christmas Eve in search of the best party in New York City. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie, with supporting roles from Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Mindy Kaling and Michael Shannon.

Their whole Christmas tradition began on Christmas 2001 when Ethan Miller (Levitt) loses his family in a car-accident. Since then, a lot of things have changed. Isaac (Rogen) has married and his wife is pregnant with their first children, meanwhile, Chris (Mackie) is an accomplished football-player. Ethan, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have moved on in the same way. He’s struggles with his job at a hotel and has difficulty committing to relationships. As they reunite, Isaac and Chris’ desires to move on and Ethan’s reluctance come to a head, as well as emotions and secrets the former two might have repressed, such as Isaac’s fear of fatherhood and Chris’ use of steroids.

The subject-matter might come across as heavy for such a light-heart vehicle, and, at times, it can, perhaps, feel a little tonally disheveled, but I wouldn’t say it throws off the film. The characters coast mostly off their charm and likability, and the comedy’s fueled mostly off the concept’s absurdity and the surrealist approach. The emotional-depth is mostly surface-level and minimal, but it does have a certain whimsical, heartwarming nature that meshes well with what you’d expect from a Christmas film.

The Night Before is the type of film you check your brain at the door for, which is the case for most stoner films, for that matter. It’s very much from the same ilk as a lot of other comedy romps, especially the ones I mentioned, and, say, Sausage Party, which will help advise whether it’s a film you’d be interested in or not.

At its worst, I’d say The Night Before isn’t what I’d call a heavy hitter. Its intention is to make a casual, light-weight movie, and it satiates with a suitably worthwhile comedy. It doesn’t have the comedic playground to play in that This is the End or The Interview did, and I don’t believe it hits the high-notes of the former (although I did enjoy it more than The Interview). Likewise, it doesn’t have the emotional weight of Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 film. This is a very single-minded film, in that respect, which can either be an insult or a compliment depending on your expectations heading in.

The Night Before isn’t a modern holiday classic, but it’s fun and brings a few laughs, and if you’re looking to throw something on while you gobble up pizza and beers, ‘tis the season for this film.

Placement on the List: – The Decents

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