2015 / Director. Jonathan Levine.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
With the incumbent release of festive films this year comes THE NIGHT BEFORE, a comedy that is essentially SUPERBAD meets IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogan reunite with their 50/50 director Jonathan Levine, with Anthony Mackie along for the ride, and they deliver an expected dose of puerility that plays for cheap laughs.
Levine's previous film was WARM BODIES and he was also responsible for THE WACKNESS and ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, and so with the calibre of those titles (plus the aforementioned 50/50) it's fair to say that THE NIGHT BEFORE is an unexpected departure for a filmmaker of his calibre. But rather than criticise him for turning to such low-brow malarky, I would rather shake his hand and offer him kudos for stepping out and tempting something new.
THE NIGHT BEFORE is dumb... but it works. Rogen and Gordon-Levitt carry their rapport into the movie effectively and their relationship on-screen feels sincere, much like Rogen and James Franco's does in their numerous outings together. Their chemistry is legitimate and that makes the lunacy much easier to buy into. Anthony Mackie completes the circle and the bond that the three share gives the film an dramatic anchor that may have been hard to recognise had the characters been miscast.
They play three best friends who made a pact fourteen years ago, that they would spend every Christmas Eve together, getting wasted and letting loose. It was all for the sake of Levitt's character whose parents were killed in a car accident. With age and adult responsibilities becoming a reality, the three of them decide that it's time to move on and so this is to be the last Xmas bash they would ever have. Rogen spends the entire film pinging from an assortment of drugs, Mackie is desperate to find his major-league teammates so he can impress them and Levitt pines for his ex-girlfriend. Honestly? There's very little to the story and each scene is basically a new opportunity for gags. Some gags miss their mark, while others hit the spot. And when they hit... they hit with a bang. There are enough belly-laugh moments to keep this sucker floating and despite being ten to fifteen minutes too long, it holds itself together.
THE NIGHT BEFORE is crass, blasphemous and will probably offend some people... but it's got a lot of heart and spreads the festive message of peace, love and togetherness in a cheesy, yet emotive way. I wouldn't be surprised if it picks up a stronger following as the years roll by and I know that it's one I will return to every few years or so.