Written by Tommy Tracy
You know exactly what you’re going to get when you walk into this film; a couple of offensive men getting drunk (and high) while all trying to relive glory days of being younger. That’s what the trailer sells us and it doesn’t stray at all away from it. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because we see three incredibly funny actors all in their element.
During Christmas 2001, Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) is seen mourning over his dead parents. To cheer him up, his two best friends, Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) take him out for a night of Christmas debauchery. Thus begins a fourteen year long tradition of drunken madness and drug trips, all circling around a very inclusive Nutcracker’s Ball that is impossible to find. Flash-forward to today and the guys are all in different places; Isaac is married and expecting a child. Chris has finally developed his football skills and is now a famous athlete (at 34). And Ethan…well Ethan is in the same place; depressed, broke and following his floundering music career. Somehow Ethan gets his hands on the tickets for the Ball and thus begins the guys’ final Christmas Eve together.
I find myself always connecting with character portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even when the character shares no characteristics with me. While most people who attract to this character of Ethan aren’t depressed and lonely, I think a lot of the audience can connect with his sense of adventure and willingness to not lose people. He misses his ex, Diana (Lizzy Caplan) who he let go because he’s afraid of commitment. Isaac is the rock in his relationship, focusing on his wife’s (Jillian Bell) needs over his. She gives him a package of “every drug on the planet” and this is where all of the comedy comes from. Rogen is great on these drugs, mixing cocaine, mushrooms, weed and an array of other things to comedy gold. And Anthony Mackie shows off some hilarious chops I didn’t know he had as football star, Chris Roberts. His arc consists of being a late bloomer, finding his football groove at 34. He’s incredibly famous, having sex with random girls and signing autographs every second of the night. His social media game is also on point, making a few videos that involve his fun night and his recommendation of Red Bull.
There are a few problems, however. While I appreciate the comedy and out-of-wack plot, some jokes fall flat. There’s a lot of laugh out loud moments but the film is also full of a bunch of jokes that don’t land. I found myself weakly smiling more often than I should have and that is not okay.
Each character has his own subplot as well; Rogen keeps trying to find his phone after he lost it during an altercation with Mindy Kaling. This is the best as high Rogen receives sexts with a very famous celebrity (I won’t ruin it) and he is definitely the funniest part of the film. JGL’s is also great but that’s only because I care about him so much. He doesn’t want to lose his friends he knows he’s losing and he wants his girlfriend back. Mackie’s is the one that kind of flounders. While he’s great (and I mean great) in the role, he just wants to be accepted by his teammates and will do anything for it, even illegally buying weed from a drug tripped Michael Shannon and sleep with some strange hipster chick.
You know what you’re getting with a script written by Evan Goldberg. It’s going to be funny but no, The Night Before is not a game changer. It won’t live on in the annals of time as one of the greatest comedies ever but it will please a lot of people this holiday season. It’s funny, raunchy, offensive and surprisingly heartfelt and will leave you with a good feeling afterwards.