Following the death of his parents just before Christmas, Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) strikes a deal with his two best friends, Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) to spend every Christmas Eve together getting wasted and chasing down the holy grail of Christmas Parties. Flash forward a bunch of years and stoner Isaac is settling down, about to have a baby while Chris has blown up as a sports megastar. Ethan, however, has remained static, resigned to circling the bowl of limited experience, while being too afraid to make commitments. Feeling that their youth is now behind them, they decide to go out with a bang, heading out into New York for a final Christmas Eve of fun. With a limo full of Red Bull, a pocket full of every drug conceivable and three tickets to the Christmas party of their dreams, the trio are set for a night to remember… just maybe not exactly in the way that they imagined.
Okay, so Seth Rogen plays a stoner. You can pretty much envisage the exact tone of the movie and level of humour from just that one sentence. For those who are partial to the afro-haired actor’s blend of comedy, you’ll be more than fine in this world of dick jokes, pratfalls and celebrity friend cameos (yes, James Franco makes an appearance). Those who can’t stand Rogen need read no further.
This has every ingredient required to make an endearing Christmas comedy. Gordon-Levitt is always eminently watchable and provides the heart of the film, while Mackie ably polishes his rising star. Rogen is Rogen. The supporting cast is equally impressive with the likes of Jillian Bell and Mindy Kaling amplifying the comedy, while Michael Shannon embodies the somewhat twisted spirit of Christmas and Lizzy Caplan is as adorable as ever. The gags are plentiful, with a healthy dose of what was in all likelihood improvised moments (the drug-induced dream sequence featuring Rogen and Bell is a highlight) and the underlying message perfectly fits the seasonal feel.
Yet, somehow, it feels like you’ve seen all of this before.
In their attempt to make a classic Christmas comedy, writer/director Jonathan Levine and regular Rogen stooge Evan Goldberg have ticked every box. Heart-warming sentiment, quirky spiritual character, Christmas movie references, seasonal music… it’s all here. Yet this by the numbers approach ultimately detracts from the film’s potential impact, stopping it short of becoming a classic and landing it squarely in the ‘one to watch after the pub with a pizza’ category.
If this was a Christmas present, you wouldn’t want to return it, but as a comedy, it’s more of a seasonal snigger than a ‘Ho, ho, ho’.
Additional features include an all-too-short gag reel and a load of pithy featurettes featuring B-roll footage and interviews with the stars (some of which is funnier than the final gags included in the movie).
THE NIGHT BEFORE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JONATHAN LEVINE / SCREENPLAY: JONATHAN LEVINE, KYLE HUNTER, ARIEL SHAFFIR, EVAN GOLDBERG / STARRING: JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, SETH ROGEN, ANTHONY MACKIE, LIZZY CAPLAN, JILLIAN BELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW