THE NIGHT BEFORE Movie Review – A Mixed Holiday Bag
Are stoner Christmas movies becoming a thing? With A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and now The Night Before, all it’ll take is one more holiday stoner comedy for it to officially be a thing. It makes sense, considering how stressful the holidays can be. Regardless, The Night Before pretty much solidifies the stoner Christmas movie as a genre.
The Night Before marks the second collaboration between stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and director Jonathan Levine, whose previous work, 50/50, was one of 2011’s best movies. Here, Gordon-Levitt, Rogen and Anthony Mackie play three friends who’ve gotten together every Christmas Eve to party it up, but adulthood has forced to trio to give up the tradition after one final romp through New York. Naturally, complications ensue, and with Rogen in the mix, drugs play no small part in those shenanigans.
Parts of The Night Before are really funny. Levine knows how to play to his actor’s comedic strengths, and on that front the film delivers. The funniest of the bunch is Michael Shannon, who flips his soft-spoken, creepy persona on its head as a hilarious pot dealer/fortune teller/mentor. Shannon hasn’t been this hilarious since reading that sorority letter for Funny or Die. Levine even wrings out some laughs courtesy of Seth Rogen, despite the fact that watching him high on screen feels like a parody of his real-life persona at this point.
Rogen has been high on screen so often, the line between stoned on-screen and stoned off-screen for him is non-existent. Even a sub-plot involving lewd texts from a mysterious “James” is all too predictable. Seriously, who could “James” be in a movie starring Seth Rogen?
What’s most disappointing about The Night Before is it’s complete aversion to all things heart-felt or plot related. Every time something that isn’t funny occurs – be it emotions or a simple plot point – the film seems to raise its hands and run away, yelling “Ew, gross! Icky!” It’s all glossed over with choppy editing, as if they’re a necessary evil to keep everything moving along. Maybe the filmmakers were on a tight schedule editing-wise and chose to focus more on the comedy, emotions and continuity errors be damned.
The Night Before may not be a dud on the level of Rogen’s The Interview, but with all of the talent involved, especially Jonathan Levine, it’s disappointing that the film is content to be nothing more than a silly, throwaway stoner comedy. Even A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas aimed for something higher.
Get it? Higher? Because they’re both stoner flicks? Of course you do. And that’s why I love you.