The Night Before review – holiday comedy is a no, no, no

The Night Before stumbles long before midnight

Occasionally I’ll get ahead of myself watching a movie. Midway through The Night Before, I was envisioning making this hilarious holiday spin on The Hangover a regular Christmas movie tradition until that wretched second act happened. It’s rare to see a comedy go so spectacularly off the rails after such a promising start.

Three childhood friends — soon to be new father Isaac (Seth Rogen, Neighbors [Blu-ray]),  social media savvy football player Chris (Anthony Mackie, Love the Coopers) and underachieving musician Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)) have assembled for one last Christmas Eve of mayhem and partying.

Chris and Isaac kicked off the tradition with Ethan after his parents were killed 14 years ago.

L-r, Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie star in Columbia Pictures' "The NIght Before."

Considering the bulk of the big hedonistic night out is actually pretty tame — the trio sing karaoke, have dinner at a Chinese restaurant and visit the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center — they’re pretty much ready for retirement anyway.

To help ease the transition, Isaac’s wife (Jillian Bell) is contributing to the fun with a grab bag of drugs, which predictably doesn’t end well. The gang’s ultimate white whale is getting into The Nutcracker Ball — a Christmas Eve party so exclusive the location isn’t revealed until the night of the event.

Saying goodbye to traditions with childhood pals isn’t an overdone premise and is relatable to audience members in their late 20s and 30s.

But the script, credited to four screenwriters, ventures into needless drama, goofiness and ridiculousness situations. There’s a jarring switch in tone from the fun, warm feel-good hangout movie that kicks off the film that gets displaced for a typical Bros Gone Wild second act.

Seth Rogen, left, and Michael Shannon star in Columbia Pictures' "The Night Before," also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie.

Having Isaac, Ethan and Chris engage in normal issues like concerns of being a good parent, reconsidering a lost love (Lizzy Caplan) and doping to be a top-tier player were more than enough weighty issues to tackle in between the fun of the trio trying to make it to the party. And with such likable leads, it wasn’t asking too much of the audience to invest in these subplots.

Instead, Director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) cranks the silly dial to ’20’ going for the most over the top scenarios. These uninspired gems including a woman who causes mischief to be a real life Grinch, a sleigh ride chase, a tasteless church scene and the faithful standby scene of Rogen’s character getting high out of his mind.

The Night Before - Mindy Kaling and Lizzy Caplan

Turns out Rogen’s drugged out stoner shtick only works for 20 minutes before it becomes highly annoying. It’s the go-to move in his repertoire, but after a dozen films with little variation, it’s just not sustainable through an entire film.  Not even the Hail Mary gambit of a forced cameo by Rogen’s frequent collaborator James Franco is enough to salvage this gag gone too long.

And there’s just something woefully out of touch about Miley Cyrus being the film’s big celebrity cameo. Unlike the life support career of Mike Tyson before his appearance in The Hangover, Cyrus is moderately current though desperate to remain relevant and shocking. At least she’s got that in common with the film.

Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) steals the film as the intense, but strangely warm, drug dealer Mr Green while Lorraine Toussaint (Selma) has a nice supporting role as Chris’ loving mother. Mindy Kaling is wasted in a thankless cameo

L-r, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in Columbia Pictures' "The NIght Before."

It’s almost easier to be more sympathetic to a movie that is consistently terrible instead of one where an awful second half throttles a funny, promising one so significantly that it fails to stick the landing.

The Night Before offers little hope for a Christmas miracle for those seeking a quality comedy to laugh the night away.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

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  • Beem

    This is another racist movie where fat ugly Seth Rogen plays an explicitly Jewish character, while good-looking Jewish actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lizzy Caplan, this time) play non-Jews. As a matter of fact, despite being the son of two Jewish parents, Gordon-Levitt has never explicitly played his own ethnicity once in his entire 30 years of acting. Is there a problem, Joey?

    This is the same racist trick Rogen pulls every time. He always casts himself as an explicit Jewish character opposite non-Jewish characters played by good-looking Jews (Paul Rudd, James Franco, Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Halston Sage, etc.).

    And this new film is from the same studio, S.S.ony, that released last year’s Fury, about fighting Nazis during WWII. Fury starred no less than four Jews (Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, and Shia LaBeouf), yet none of the characters were Jewish and Jews and the Holocaust were never mentioned. Gee, maybe they should have cast Seth Rogen as a “funny” Jewish soldier who died early on in the film.

    Actors of fully Jewish background: Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

    Andrew Garfield and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of their parents are).

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

    Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr. and Sean Penn were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Armie Hammer and Chris Pine are part Jewish.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism: Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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