There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who celebrate the Christmas season before Thanksgiving and the others who start celebrating after Thanksgiving. Either way, “The Night Before” is humorous enough for both types of folks. It’s a film that’s aware of its limitations and it embraces the holiday spirit in refreshing ways. There’s plenty of cliche’s in this film that help the audience enjoy a festive film that isn’t trying to be some dynamic holiday comedy that would’ve left everyone wanting. It’s comical, irreverent, drug and booze filled movie with enough questionable subject matter to keep you laughing almost the entire time.
The story is certainly a familiar one. Friends (or family) coming together to celebrate Christmas and at some point acting out selfishly and then realizing by the finale’ friends and family are all we have. The film starts with Tracy Morgan narrating the events of the film that led to where we find the best friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie). From there we go on a drug and booze fueled romp through New York City looking for the greatest party imaginable. There’s some heartfelt moments peppered throughout the film but the bulk of this movie is comedy, sometimes off beat, but comedy all the same.
It felt like director Jonathan Levine wanted a cast that was completely typecast. Seth is the drug user (which is always funny to me because of how well he plays paranoid and out of control), Joseph is the heartbreak kid looking for love in the bright holiday places, and Anthony is the handsome jock who has a dark secret. This all works well. Yes, it felt campy at times but this combination, oddly enough, worked. These three had chemistry on screen that had folks believing they were best of friends.
The highlight of the film for me was little touches of authenticity that could’ve been left out. They decided to add these little gems and that only helped build upon this world they created for everyone to enjoy.The fact they find the only pay phone in town so the drug dealer (Michael Shannon) can call them was hilarious. The fact they were playing Nintendo 64 “Golden Eye” at Chris’s mothers apartment (while waiting for the drug dealer a second time) because that was the popular game when they hung out there last, priceless. So many fun moments that kept me laughing almost the entire film.
At the end of it all, I was most impressed with Jillian Bell (Betsy, Isaac’s wife). Her onscreen chemistry with Seth Rogen was spot on for what his supportive, slightly crazy, wife could be in my imagination. She complimented Seth Rogen so much while they shared screen time together. At times I enjoyed her performance more than his. A job well done from start to finish.