Lazy, haphazard comedy tries to combine stoner movie with Christmas. If you’re already snickering at that idea then you might find this amusing. Everyone else would be wise to skip this lump of coal. Still curious? Well, here’s the “plot”. Every year Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have taken their best buddy, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), out on Christmas Eve for a wacky night of carousing. The three have been friends since childhood and this has become an annual tradition. You see back in 2001 Ethan lost his parents in a car accident on this very night. The Night Before basically answers a question no decent person would ask, why honor your loved ones by visiting their final resting place, when you can engage in a night of debauchery instead?
The “Holy Grail” in their life is the Nutcracker Ball a wildly outrageous but highly exclusive party they’ve always heard about, but never been to. While working as a coat check “elf” for a hotel, Ethan finds three tickets to said blowout in the pocket of someone else’s jacket. He promptly steals them and then he’s off to round up his friends. Before they go out, Ethan gives them festive sweaters to wear because er uh I guess someone in wardrobe thought ugly knit pullovers were hilarious. Anyway, the location of the bash won’t be announced until 10pm so that means they have got some time to kill. Buckle up for a series of scattershot gags and misfires.
I know it’s stupid to try and find reason in a stoner comedy, but at least the setup in the best of them (Friday, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) is rooted in some sense. Why Chris, who is now a famous football player, would still have nothing better to do than hang around these preternatural adolescents, is an enigma shrouded in mystery. Another befuddlement: why would Isaac’s wife Betsy (Jillian Bell), who is ready to give birth to their first child at any minute, give her husband a Whitman’s sampler of recreational drugs, then send him out for the evening, while she hosts her own holiday soiree without him, on Christmas Eve no less?! Oh wait, was the screenwriter on drugs? Perhaps the viewer is supposed to be.
It is one night in the life of 3 men in a perpetual state of adolescence. The feeble set-up keeps promising that something TOTALLY UH-MAZE-ZING is going to happen. It never does. (Unless watching Miley Cyrus lip sync “Wrecking Ball” is your idea of the most awesomest thing ever.) They play a giant toy piano at FAO Schwartz à la the movie Big, sing “Christmas in Hollis” in karaoke bar, hang out with Ethan’s ex-girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), then irritate her best friend Sarah (Mindy Kaling). A major plot development happens when Isaac receives some racy texts after he accidentally takes Sarah’s phone. Isaac is perpetually under the influence of drugs which means he’s unhinged the entire time. Michael Shannon pops up occasionally as their disturbingly peculiar pot dealer. He’s kind of a welcome presence actually. None of the three dudes’ adventures are even remotely funny. That is until about halfway through when Isaac winds up in a Catholic church wearing his blue Hanukkah sweater. Isaac is still tripping out and he’s feeling a bit self-conscious. Then he hallucinates a baby is cursing at him. I laughed then and I think I chuckled again somewhere before the end. 2 stars, one for each guffaw.