The Night Before is as flippant and goofy as any Seth Rogen helping, but just like every Christmas movie, it’s deeper than meets the eye. It’s about something more than Christmas. Christmas is just the nucleus that helps give significance to a story about self-discovery. And even Rogen’s irreverent humor can’t change that.
The film follows three best friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Chris (Anthony Mackie), and Isaac (Rogen), who get together every year on Christmas Eve to raise a little hell. The tradition started years earlier following the death of Ethan’s parents. This being the last year of feral fun for the guys, seeing as they are grown-ups now with increasing responsibilities, they try to make it the best one ever.
There’s not much to the plot other than a very generic concept, but that’s not why our butts are in the seats. We really just want to see Rogen and company’s antics as they run uninhibitedly throughout Manhattan.
While it seems at times like this movie serves as just another excuse for three actors to mess around while making a movie for us to sit and watch for 101 minutes, that’s what these romps are all about. We like watching them simply have a good time. We want a night like this where crazy things happen and we can talk about for the rest of our lives. These films serve as vessels for us to live vicariously through. And we’re okay with that. It’s an added bonus that it happens to have the backdrop of everyone’s favorite time of year; a time of year that we romanticize more and more as we grow older–mostly because we long for that childlike innocence and simplicity of our youth. And it’s interesting to witness amidst the crudity of a Seth Rogen film.
If nothing else, this film proves once again that Rogen can make anyone funny. His humor is contagious and motivates others to match his wit. On an unrelated note, Michael Shannon nearly steals the show as the spectral Mr. Green. He’s mysterious and totally believable as the older scraggly pot dealer who keeps these guys continually paranoid throughout the film.
The film isn’t perfect. It has its slower moments, but those also happen to be when the narrative picks up and we aren’t as concerned about sustaining our laughter. Some plot devices show up merely for comedic effect and don’t contribute much to the movie, but that’s okay because it’s that kind of comedy. And although this one doesn’t get a pass to break all the rules, the filmmakers have crafted that type of movie.
There’s a final realization copout that’s forgiven with the satisfactory ending that follows, but the beauty of this movie is the chemistry of the core cast, which occurs through the empty script and heightened improvisation.
It’s a good Christmas movie. It’s not for the whole family, but it’s a more unique addition to the genre. One that’s definitely worth multiple viewings.