(In carolling tone) Twas the night before Christmas and all was in order, then three childhood friends, with some drugs and some booze, brought much disorder.
Some of my favourite Christmas movies of all time range from scared and helpless little boys stuck in the big apple, to a grown-up elf stuck in the big city, to an under appreciative working man looking back at the good in his life and the world as a whole. Christmas is always a joyous, overfilling and highly commercialized time of year with some redeeming life lessons mixed in for good measure. So it came to be a big surprise for me that, The Night Before, one of my new favourite Christmas movies of all time, brought something new to the holiday movie genre we have never seen before; narcotics, sex and a threesome bromance we haven’t seen this good since the early Apatow films.
The premise is simple, the movie centers on three very different friends; Ethan, Isaac and Chris (played perfectly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie, respectively) who start a new boys night Christmas eve tradition after the tragic passing of Ethan’s parents by a drunk driver. What starts off as a simple tradition of getting drunk, egg drop soup, a visit to the Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree, and of course, like any good Rogen and company film, getting completely high and f*cked up, quickly turns into a search for the ultimate party. After a couple of years perfecting their Christmas shenanigans, the trio get wind of an epic and secretive Nutcracker Ball (think Great Gatsby-esque type shindig), that only happens by invite and to a very exclusive bunch. Unable to find the actual party for many years, the three give up and eventually mutually decide to end the tradition, seeing that Isaac is in the midst of having a baby and family, Chris and his high cost of success and fame as a football star, and all three moving on and getting too old.
One of the best aspects of The Night Before, much like the previous Rogen/Gordon-Levitt collaboration 50/50 is the film’s fantastic ability to be silly, wild and completely chaotic, yet maintain a very emotional and deep connection of friendship, love and a believable bromance between three highly unlikely and different people. New to the Rogen crew this time around is Anthony Mackie (you may know him as Falcon in the Marvel universe), a very talented and versatile actor, who gathers as many laughs as Rogen and Gordon-Levitt within all of his scenes.
Rogen, who is hysterical as always, uses his very apparent Jewish roots and heritage for the basis of his humor and the foundation of many laughs throughout. From foreshadowing a very symbolic crucifixion, to some hilarious blasphemous religious gags within or outside of the church, hilarious bar scenarios, and ultimately to one of my favourite dinner texting scene ever in a film, Rogen always brings the laughs to a maximum.
Gordon-Levitt, the cute and cuddly of the bunch, brings many nostalgic moments of friendship that really hold the emotional core of the film. Having recently suffered a break-up with his ex Diana (Lizzy Caplan), Ethan is easily the most lost of the bunch; roaming through dead end jobs (like serving hors d’oeuvres on Christmas eve dressed up as an elf), being an unheard musical talent and not doing much with it, to living alone while Chris grows professionally and Isaac as a father and husband, Ethan gains much of the holiday empathy we are so used to chucking around this time of year.
While The Night Before is surely an acquired taste for many, the movie aims for a mostly young demographic overall. My parents wouldn’t be the people I’d recommend the film to, especially given the very strong hints of marijuana flooding the theatre, The Night Before proves to be a perfect buddy holiday cinema-going experience from beginning to end.
Like any good Rogen and company film, the film is filled with unexpected and sometimes utterly perfect cameos and roles for some amazing actors, including Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), who plays Mr. Green, the boys’ drug dealer and whimsically mysterious entity; to Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street), who plays Rogen’s wife and drug supplier for the group, to Miley Cyrus who rings in a great cameo and fantastic little over-the top scene, to Mindy Kaling, Jason Jones, Jason Mantzoukas, Randall Park (The Interview) and Tracy Morgan after his very public and publicized car accident.
As we grow older and stressed, Christmas is never really our thing, whether or not we believe in the holiday at all. Between the commercial onslaughts, to the joyous overkill, the holidays become more of a dreaded family melodrama more than anything. Thankfully, The Night Before is a perfect way to counteract all your holidays blues, while still staying in the Christmas spirit.
There is no doubting that Rogen, long-time friend and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, along with director Jonathan Levine, love and appreciate the holiday classic films, from Home Alone, to films like the original Die Hard, Big, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Grinch, these guys are film fanatics through and through, and with the inclusion of very subtle yet perfectly timed odes to these classics, The Night Before becomes a new holiday tradition and admirable holiday classic I cannot wait to share with my kids…once they are old enough, of course. Plus, who ever thought Kanye’s Runaway would be a new Christmas caroling classic? Que it in the holiday mix for 2016 folks.
Night Film Reviews: 8.5 Out of 10 Stars.
Is The Night Before a new holiday classic or classical slap stick? Hows Rogen? Mackie? Gordon-Levitt? Did you gobble it up and wrap it with a bow or hate it and leave it buried under the tree? Leave your wrapped thoughts below!