Ah Christmas, that magical time of year at the movies we get 2 or 3 christmas themed releases aim to become the big holiday film and cement their place in the families holiday movie traditions, The Night Before means well, but is definitely not that movie unless you are a 30 something looking for a good laugh while quietly reflecting on your life.
The film packs in comedic heavyweights Seth Rogen (Isaac), Joseph Gordon Levitt (Ethan), Lizzy Caplan (Diana), Mindy Kaling (Sarah) and James Franco. Combine with comedy newcombers Anthony Mackie (Chris Roberts) and Jillian Bell (Betsy) the film tells the story of three friends Ethan, Isaac and Chris who band together after Ethan’s parents are killed in a car crash on Christmas. In an effort to cheer their friend up they create a yearly tradition involving karaoke, christmas sweaters, dinner at Chris’s family home and trying to get invited to the most exclusive and secret Nutcracker Ball.
After years of searching finally Ethan (steals!) scores some tickets through chance and the guys are headed to the ball. The only catch is with Isaac expecting his first baby and Chris’s career taking off, they decide that this will be the last year they participate in their tradition. This is where the movie really gets a bit sentimental and hits home. If you are a 30 something like me, it is easy to relate to this situation. Friends around are having their first babies, buying homes, growing responsibility, and must balance that with the “need to party” It was definitely the most aha! moment of the film and for that reason it really resonated with me.
Fans of Rogen will be in comedic heaven with drug overdoses, fart jokes, freak outs and quippy one liners will keep the millenials at bay, while a surprise appearance by Miley Cyrus packs as many Hannah Montana and Wrecking Ball jokes in her quick 5 minute screen time.
The good news is that with a high level of comedic talent comes the performances, every one of the actors is given their moments here to showcase just why they have become household names and each earned their stars as a comedic performer. Kaling is bitchy and fun, Franco is sexy and creepy, Rogen is freaking out on a drug cocktail complete with delusional dream sequences, Caplan who admittedly has been absent from the scree for a while, rings in the lead actress spot and proves just why she is a comedic powerhouse. A large portion of this is credited to her chemistry with Gordon Levitt who entertains and kind of comes off as whiny in portions, but Caplan balances this and keeps things moving along at a steady pace.
Mackie is actually irritating in this movie, but I believe this is half the point of his character. He is a just gone pro footballer who has a red bull stretch limousine, taking selfies and posting on social media unashamedly promoting the Sony Xperia Z Ultra smartphone. As the movie goes on he does become more bearable but initial annoyance is completely understood here.
While this movie won’t go down as a Christmas classic, in a release week of such films as Into The Sea, this is definitely worth your cinema dollars this week. Fans of Rogen will enjoy the continuation of his brand of comedy and 30 somethings will relate to the all too close to home plot.
Review by Alaisdair Leith