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Review: The Night Before

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(L-r) Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in Comlumbia Pictures' THE NIGHT BEFORE

The last time Joseph Gordon-Levitt teamed up on film with Seth Rogen was in 2011 for 50/50. Like many who’ve seen it, I felt it was a piece that represented Rogen’s best work. I guess the cinematic reunion of the two was one of the reasons why I was so open to watching The Night Before. While it predictably doesn’t hold up to their 2011 film, this 2015 release which also stars Anthony Mackie is actually kind of decent in many ways.

In The Night Before, the aforementioned trio star as three guys who’ve been close friends for over a decade. During that entire period, every Christmas eve has seen them get together for an insane night chalked of debauchery and fun. As much as they’ve loved sharing these times together, they know things are changing due to all that life has to offer them. That’s why they’ve decided to have one last Christmas eve celebration by finding and attending the legendary, mythical party simply known as The Nutcracka Ball.

Although I have liked a couple of Seth Rogen’s films, it’s safe to say that I’m not the biggest fan of his. So with that being the case, I wasn’t going into The Night Before thinking it would be a great watch. While it doesn’t have the ability to make me love it, this familiar Rogen-style journey did cause me to laugh more than I anticipated. As always, that is a welcome surprise when I can get it. I guess that’s the wonderful things about movies sometimes. That’s what happened with the incredibly funny This is the End, so why couldn’t that happen again?

Even though this won’t be a selling point, I do appreciate that The Night Before gives each main character some kind of story. While it feels as if Levitt’s Ethan is at the center as far as the story is concerned, each guy has a chance to carry the film by having their own story arc. Providing each of these friends with some kind of arc gives us something to pay attention to while the movie moves along. They could have relied solely on the gags to carry the day, but doing it this way makes it all palatable.

They even give Michael Shannon’s character purpose. Not only that, his character might actually be my favorite. I didn’t even know he was supposed to be in the movie, but he manages to steal every scene that he’s in with his low-key character with strange intentions. When thinking about the movie as a whole, his character may not have even been needed under normal circumstances, but he’s here and adds quite a bit to what we get to watch.

While the additions of individual stories for each main character is positive here, the structure of the film’s story that brings it all together doesn’t really have the kind of pace and connectivity necessary. The way it’s handled makes much of what we’re watching feel uneven and inconsistent. If this could have been done smoother, it’s likely that The Night Before would have been one of Seth Rogen’s best feature films. I doubt it could have reached This is the End or 50/50, but it certainly had the potential to leap over any of his other previous work he’s had as a main character.

Ultimately, The Night Before is a comedy that does give its viewers a chance to laugh thanks to some of the jokes and the actors that are able to deliver well enough. The structure certainly could have been improved, but it doesn’t do enough damage to the film to tell you not to see it. For those who are into Seth Rogen and his shtick, this may be even more enjoyable. If you’re interested in this because of either one of those reasons, you could do a lot worse than this Christmas season in terms of comedies.

Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Levine

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Seth Rogen
Anthony Mackie
Lizzy Caplan
Jillian Bell
Michael Shannon
Mindy Kaling

Film Length: 101 minutes

Release Date: November 20, 2015

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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