“… had some low points, but the film was funny and it captured the spirit of Christmas…”
This year I decided to not only watch Christmas movies that I know and love, but also give new ones a chance; this led me to watching The Night Before. The Night Before is kind of like the ‘stoner comedy’ of christmas movies (although that title probably should go to A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas), which makes sense because it stars Seth Rogen. The film follows three friends (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen) who have a yearly tradition of going out on Christmas eve and getting completely fucked up. The trio decide that this is their last year to continue this tradition, do to the fact that they aren’t young anymore, and they go out on a bang by trying to get into the most illusive, insane Christmas party ever. We then just kind of watch the trio get drunk (and high), and fuck around for two hours.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I expected The Night Before to be terrible. Much like many comedies that come out, there was an expectation that it wouldn’t be groundbreaking, or even necessarily good. But I do have to admit that The Night Before blew all of my expectations out of the water. Was the movie flawless? Absolutely not. It did fall victim to a few of the issues that I thought would plague the movie, but for the most part I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout. The movie is pretty hilarious, and though there are some punchlines that made me roll my eyes, there were also a lot of really well-crafted ones. The movie does’t really use drugs or alcohol as a comedy crutch, which opens up the doors for a more personal comedy. Really The Night Before is a movie about three friends who are growing apart, and they decide to have one last hurrah together. The writing does a good job of making the characters feel like they’ve known each other for a long time, but a lot of that also comes from the acting.
I didn’t expect the acting in The Night Before to be amazing, and it wasn’t. I don’t think that I can pin that on the actors themselves, both because I know that many of them have more range than you would expect and also because the story didn’t call for much more than dick jokes to be said at certain points. That being said there were a few moments that allowed for the characters to show more depth, and the actors did a good job with that. Really what surprised me most was seeing Michael Shannon in the movie. Again, his character wasn’t all that deep but I’ll be damned if I don’t love me some Michael Shannon. Come to think of it, the film had a lot of big actors in fairly small roles. The only constants throughout the film were the three friends, so everyone else was only there in passing. What surprised me most was the Miley Cyrus cameo, and the fact that it didn’t suck. I’m aware that Cyrus has some practice with acting (I mean, she played two people for god’s sake), so it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise but it did. Usually celebrity cameos are painfully awkward, but Miley Cyrus did a very good job with hers.
The Night Before did have its issues however, one of them being the pacing of the film. When watching The Night Before, the first 40 inures of the movie felt like it took about double that to get through. This is due to the first half of the film being almost montage-like, spending only a few minutes per event then moving on. This made the movie feel like I had already witnessed all of the things that this group was going to do, but then the movie refused to end. Luckily, this problem gets fixed when the focus of the movie gets narrowed down to the gigantic party, and the characters become less scatter-brained. Another thing I disliked about The Night Before was the god-awful CGI. Now you wouldn’t expect a movie like The Night Before to be special effects-heavy (I sure didn’t), but you’d be wrong. The movie has many instances of CGI (mainly pertaining to drug trips) and all of them are terrible. That makes me wonder why they even wrote those scenes in at all if the effects were going to be so bad.
One of the most important questions to ask about The Night Before is if it was a good Christmas movie. To this I would give a resounding “sure”. The film starts off presenting itself like a classic Christmas story, with a narrator and all, but then it drops that act and becomes more “normal”. I thought that the story was pretty heart-warming, and the movie had a pretty good message attached to it as well. Most importantly The Night Before felt like a Christmas movie. You would think that you get that effect just by putting up some lights, but you’d be wrong. Just the overall spirit of the film (though a little raunchy) had a message of togetherness and friendship, and that’s what Christmas is about. At least, I think that’s what Christmas is about. I haven’t really figured it out yet, if I’m being honest.
Overall The Night Before was pretty good. Sure it had some low points, but the film was funny and it captured the spirit of Christmas well. I don’t think it will become a tradition of mine to watch The Night Before every year, but its a movie that I will definitely consider when December rolls around again.
I give The Night Before a B