a critiQal film review The Night Before (2015)

Plot: Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (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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  • ...despite a solid storyline and the presence of Gordon-Levitt and Mackie, Seth Rogen helps turn another film into just more pointless debauchery.

It being Christmas Eve, we just had to watch some new Christmas flick. But, the pickings are kind of slim, and it came down to just two: Office Christmas Party (2016) and The Night Before. But which one? Honestly, it seemed like a bad go either way, with Jennifer Aniston in one and Seth Rogen in the other. But, because it was Christmas Eve, we went with the obvious choice.

So, would Seth Rogen and pals be able to win us over (finally) with this new Christmas flick? Or is this just another in a long line of horribly bad Rogen flicks?

Seth Rogen has been far from a site fave since he began his improbable career as an actor. Never funny, his movies are usually so bad that it’s hard to believe someone okayed it (The Green Hornet (2011)). Usually, he goes for the stoner crowd (most obviously with Pineapple Express (2008)), as apparently you have to be high to like the crap he spews. Is there something that wrong with society that his lowbrow form of humor is so popular? Unfortunately, he doesn’t change at all for The Night Before, as his crude and raunchy jokes fall just as flat as his performance does. Surprisingly, that’s okay in this film, as his drug-addled character is looked upon in shame by his pals for much of the night – although, just like his other films, there’s no comeuppance for his messed-up behavior.

His co-stars in this one, however, are quite a different story. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie have turned in some top-notch performances in the past. Why they teamed up Seth Rogen is a head-scratcher, but they still manage to do a decent job in spite of him. Gordon-Levitt gets to play the traumatized romantic, while Anthony Mackie just lets loose a bit. Sure, neither really get to shine in The Night Before, but they look like acting rockstars next to the joke that is Rogen.

The girls of the film are given little more than bit acts to play, spending almost as much time on-screen as Miley Cyrus, who puts in a weak cameo appearance. It’s obvious right from the start that this is a guy-oriented film, so it’s almost as if they put out a sign that said “No Girls Allowed” on their clubhouse – in this case, meaning no decent parts for girls. It’s too bad, as it wastes the potential from the gals in the cast.

Michael Shannon, on the other hand, is surprisingly good as a weird drug dealer. He’s known for playing characters that are a little bit off, and his turn as a drug dealer/cosmic guru emphasizes that to create something entertaining. He’s easily the best part of The Night Before.

The film tries taking a familiar piece of the classic Dicken’s Christmas story that we all know and love, and updating it for a modern audience. It’s a smart idea (since it didn’t work when they tried to animate the old one in A Christmas Carol (2009)), but it’s so hidden underneath the rest of the garbage it ends up not really mattering.

And that’s really too bad, because underneath it all, The Night Before is a surprisingly solid story about two friends just trying to cheer a guy up after he lost his parents in a car crash. They originally started this tradition of partying on Christmas Eve just to get him out of the house, and now they have a hard time convincing him it’s time to move on with his life. It’s a situation the viewer could actually get behind, but it’s so covered up by bad humor and crude behavior, it’s really hard to get past all that.

Unfortunately, despite a smart idea, an update on the “ghosts” portion of a Dickens’ classic, and the presence of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, Seth Rogen helps to royally screw up yet another flick. While it has it’s moments, the raunch and debauchery – apparently just there to give the film an R rating – coupled with another abysmal performance by Seth Rogen, help make The Night Before more of a cringefest than an entertaining film.

Thanks but no thanks, Rogen. I’ll stick with the light-hearted comedy of Arthur Christmas (2011), or the magic of The Santa Clause (1994) or The Polar Express (2004) for next year’s Christmas Movie Marathon.

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