DIR: Jonathan Levin • WRI: Jonathan Levin, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg • PRO: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver • DOP: Brandon Trost • ED: Zene Baker • DES: Annie Spitz • MUS; Marco Beltrami, Miles Hankins CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Shannon, Seth Rogen, Jillian Bell
If you’ve seen This is the End, then you already know how The Night Before might go – someone is trying unsuccessfully to be an adult before super-fun drugs and alcohol enter the picture, hijinks ensue, and life is shown to be generally consequence-free. Oh, and there’s laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.
The ‘Christmas Movie’ has been done every way possible – you name it, we’ve seen it: heartwarming Scrooge tales of selfishness overcome by the holiday spirit; jaunty cartoon animal adventures; families reunited across great divides; Christmas miracles; Santa to the rescue…the list, much like the onslaught of advertising at this time of year, is endless. Much less common in modern cinema is the irreverent Christmas movie made for children of the ’80s in their mid-thirties who snort at nostalgic fart jokes and unnecessary sex and violence, and to whom ‘adulthood’ still seems a strange and mysterious world.
Thank Santa, then, for Seth Rogan – a lazy avatar par extraordinaire, who ‘acts’ the stoner persona so perfectly that it’s impossible not to laugh. Rogan’s Isaac and his friend Chris (Anthony Mackie) make a pact to their orphaned best friend, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), to always spend Christmas together, partying and being each other’s family for the holidays. As they grow older, their actual families and responsibilities begin to take precedence, and the tradition starts to lose its lustre, culminating in this – their final Christmas night of parties. Isaac is expecting his first baby with Betsy (the fantastic Jillian Bell), Chris is a suspiciously famous football player, while Ethan has barely progressed beyond his teenage dreams. Through the years at bars they had heard tell of a mythical Great Gatsby style party, The Nutcracker Ball, where all of your wildest dreams come true. Their spirit guide directs them as they journey towards this Shangri La, in the form of Mr. Green (played with a quiet intensity by Michael Shannon), the local drug dealer with a heart who might just hold the key to happiness. Or, at least, something very similar. Will this final night together teach them life lessons, and reaffirm their friendship in unexpected ways? Probably not, but then, narrative is not really the point – the only reason to see this, or any, comedy is to laugh.
For that, then, The Night Before does what it says on the tin. There are more than enough laugh-out-loud moments, quotable silly exchanges, hilariously excessive drug and alcohol intake, and most importantly of all at this time of year, not a single serious moral to be found at the end of the night. While not at the same level as This is the End, perhaps the pinnacle of Seth Rogan’s loveable stoner goofball alter-ego, it nonetheless offers a little more than the typical Ben Stiller-style family humour that passes for comedy lately. Worth it for Seth Rogan’s irrepressive giggles alone, The Night Before is a quick and funny antidote to the sickly-sweetness that generally pervades this season.
101 minutes (See IFCO for details)
The Night Before is released 4th December 2015