By Christian DiMartino
In order for a film like The Night Before, a Christmas stoner comedy starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie, to work, two things must be right: It must be fun, and it must be funny. The film gets the former right. The latter? Eh, could be better. However, the film redeems itself in certain ways.
The film follows three friends: Ethan (Levitt), Isaac (Rogen), and Chris (Mackie). Since Ethan’s parents passed over a decade ago, the trio have spent Christmas together. Flash forward 14 years later, and the times they are a changin’, as Bob Dylan would say.
Chris is now a football superstar. Isaac is going to be a father (his wife is played to perfection by the usually funny Jillian Bell), and Ethan… well, that is another story. So they plan this Christmas as their last. Ethan’s dreams come true however, when he comes across tickets to this mysterious party that he has been longing to attend for over a decade.
From then on, they’re off. Cue the shenanigans.
The Night Before works as a piece of entertainment. It is purely entertaining, and quite fun. That said, as a comedy, I will say that I was fairly quiet during the first 40 minutes or so. It did grow on me after a bit, but it took a second for it to grow on me. I smiled through much of it, but there was not all that much laughter. The material was hit-or-miss. When it hit, it was well done. When it missed, I figured they would redeem themselves, and for the most part, they did.
There are some good cameos here, from Michael Shannon as a mysterious drug dealer named Mr. Green (of course!) to James Franco (of course!) to Miley Cyrus (again… of course!). The film also has a last-minute sweetness to it. This sort of feels like the film is trying to do too much, but it is just effective enough.
For the most part, the performers do well. Though I wish that Mackie and Levitt could have had more to do comedically. Rogen seems to be doing much of the scene-stealing, particularly when he is tripping balls. These scenes work, and then they don’t…until they work again. Lizzy Caplan and Mindy Kaling put in nice supporting turns as well.
By the end of The Night Before, I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Yet, I feel like it is a film that could grow on me over repeated viewings. It is a comedy that, for all its inappropriate content, means well. That is not something you find everyday.