The Night Before

 photo night_before_ver3_zpsb2jypr1m.jpg photo starrating-2stars.jpgLazy, 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.



20 Responses to “The Night Before”

  1. Nice review Mark, we agree on many of the same points. I was hoping for at least a couple of good chuckles but this was largely a laugh less affair. The only scene I really enjoyed was when Rogen interacted with his in-laws at the church and that was just an inferior rip-off of a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Jonathan Levine has pretty much no comic timing in his direction and I got the feeling Levitt was mailing his performance in.


    • Now you’ve got me wanting to watch the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode you mention. Never saw it, but I want to compare the two.

      I liked director Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 which also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen


      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Mark, you’ve never watched Curb Your Enthusiasm – or just that particular episode this film borrowed from? If you haven’t seen it, then you should check it out when you get a chance. It’s basically Seinfeld with foul language. Assuming you like Seinfeld, you should like CYE, as well. 🙂


  2. Two stars, one for each guffaw. Hahaha! Brilliant.

    Yeah it’s that time I guess for Rogen et al to just dump a load of nonsense before a rolling camera and call it a day. With frustrating bits like these, I can totally empathize with the anti-Rogen crowd, which seems to be growing larger by the day.

    I must say though, Michael Shannon could have been really out of place but he always finds a way to make crap material work.


    • As far as I’m concerned, Seth Rogen peaked in 2007 with Knocked Up and he hasn’t achieved that level of hilarity since.


      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        You’re right about Seth peaking in Knocked Up. KU should have catapulted him into a wider range of roles, but instead he just chose to play the same character over and over.


  3. Seth Rogen in a stoner movie?? No way!!


  4. GaryGreg828 Says:

    This looked so lame on the previews. But now that you informed me Michael Shannon is in a few scenes I may have to watch one day and just skip to his scenes. Maybe he will be nicer to Joe in this one than Premium Rush.


    • Good call. I had forgotten those 2 had worked together 3 years ago in Premium Rush.

      Yes. Watch it on video and FF to Shannon’s scenes. You can watch the whole movie in like 15 minutes.


      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        And Shannon and Mackie were also both in 8 Mile – although no screen time together. They both terrorized Rabbit, though! lol.


  5. Watched it last night with my 17 year old, just a bit nervous around the drug taking (as in those quantities might actually kill you). Didn’t quite know what to say to him on that….

    I think it was a lazy banal flick to be honest. But did make me curious to revisit a Cheech & Chong movie (last time I saw one I was 17 I think) & see if it was equally as bad.


  6. Yup, even though we shouldn’t be expecting to “find reason in a stoner comedy”, as you said, this one’s setup still was extremely weak. That coupled with the fact that everything else really wasn’t funny made this a negative movie experience for me. Glad I didn’t have to pay for this one. Shannon was great though.


  7. Mildly funny. Just too dumb though. 2 stars.


  8. I’m amused by how annoyed The Night Before made you. “Buckle up for a series of scattershot gags and misfires.” That line cracked me up. Haha. I agree though that stoner comedies don’t often make much sense. You’re right that good ones usually do. I loved Michael Shannon in this movie and also found him a welcome presence. Personally I hated how they didn’t spend much time dealing with the guys’ arrested development. The one conversation about it between the three of them was way too short and didn’t solve anything. I found Joseph Gordon-Levitt unbelievable as the slacker and never bought any of the movie’s dramatic elements. That said, I did enjoy some of its zany gags and loose parody of other Christmas films.


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