Three friends, fourteen years of Christmas traditions, one last night. But what a night it will be. It will feature: drugs, Nintendo 64, an epic party, keyboard dancing, Christmas sweaters, and most importantly, friendship. The Night Before is the crazy Christmas buddy film that we didn’t know was missing from our lives, and it’s set to become a holiday favourite in the years to come. My review after the jump.
Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents passed away one Christmas Eve and this day was the hardest of the year for him. Not wanting him to be alone on this day, his two best friends, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) showed up at his house and took him out on the town. They wore beautiful holiday sweaters, sang karaoke, ate Chinese food, and had a really good time. And thus, a tradition was born and they have done it every Christmas Eve since. This year, however, is going to be their last. Isaac has a baby on the way and Chris’s career as an NFL player is really taking off.
There was one thing that they hadn’t been able to do in their fourteen years of Christmas Eve antics, and that was attend the Nutcracker Ball, an exclusive party they had heard about, but had been unable to locate or source an invitation to. And then on this last Christmas together, a Christmas miracle. Ethan discovers invitations to the ball at a party he was working, and he took them and ran. He had to. Finally, on this last Christmas together they would attend the ball, and it would indeed be epic; well, if they could make it there it might be.
I have to admit something – I am an absolute sucker for Christmas movies. I love the holidays, and for whatever reason, I am able to forgive Christmas films for a multitude of sins that I would never tolerate in any other type of film. In saying that, I don’t think this film has many sins to be forgiven. The Night Before is absolutely hilarious. It’s an out-an-out feel-good Christmas film that cares about its characters and doesn’t resort to nasty humour for cheap laughs, as is often the case with ‘boys night out’ type comedies.
For a start, this tradition started out of love. The two men knew how much pain their friend was in, and they wanted to take that pain away. That’s a beautiful thing. Sure they drink, take drugs, talk about dicks, and try to pick up women, but none of it is done with bad intentions or any sort of grossness. In fact, the women give back the jokes just as good as they get them, with one amazing gag about the size vaginas garnering plenty of laughs. The women come off really well in this film – they’re smart and way more together than the guys, but they’re not portrayed as buzzkills, as is often the case. I particularly liked Jillian Bell’s performance as Isaac’s wife, Besty – a great supporting character who is more than just a one-dimensional wife.
The film is littered with amazing cameos and supporting performances, but none is greater than that of Michael Shannon, who plays Mr. Green, they men’s drug dealer from high school who is still peddling the sweet sweet grass now. He speaks like a wise shaman, and dishes out profound life advice with every baggie he sells.
This film works so well because of the friendship of the three men at the center. They care about each other a lot and as a result we care about them too. We want them to get to the party, we want them to take drugs and go crazy, and we want them to get out of all of the sticky situations they land themselves in; and boy do they get into some right messes. Rogan, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie are all excellent here – there’s no lack of chemistry, and it’s obvious they had a lot of fun making the film.
The Night Before is a crazy, enjoyable, nutty Christmas caper. There is absolutely no way you can watch this film and not smile. Filled with Christmas cheer, jokes (both crass & clever), and three friends you wish you knew, this film is the perfect seasonal pick-me-up.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer(s): Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan
Runtime: 132 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: December 3 2015