ReelBob: ‘The Night Before’
By Bob Bloom
“The Night Before” opens with a promising premise that quickly descends into the usual comic holiday cacophony of lowbrow, banal and tedious sex, drug and dick jokes.
The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie as Ethan, Isaac and Chris, three childhood friends united more deeply by a tragedy — the death of Ethan’s parents.
On Christmas Eve that year, Isaac and Chris decide to help bolster Ethan’s spirits by taking him out and doing the town — bingeing on drugs and drink. The event soon becomes an annual tradition that continues for a decade, even after Isaac marries and Chris becomes a famous athlete and social-media star.
But this Christmas, the revelry will be their last because Isaac’s wife is about to have their first baby and Chris’ career is taking off.
Ethan, though, is still adrift, having been dumped by his girlfriend because he refused to meet her parents.
The trio wants to end the night on a high note by finding the locale of the fabled Nucracka Ball, a legendary holiday party that is supposed to be the most awesome in the city.
Luckily, Ethan, working at a preholiday party, is able to cop three ticket to the event. And so the night of debauchery begins.
The movie plays like a steroid-driven, drug-fueled version of “A Christmas Carol,” with Michael Shannon along for the ride as Mr. Green, who portrays a drug-dealing combination of the ghosts of Christmas past, future and present.
“The Night Before” is filled with laughs, but they are vulgar, crude and sophomoric.
For a film that is supposed to be about the holiday spirit, “The Night Before” is rife with selfish and self-centered behavior by its major protagonists who, at times, seem to be friends simply because the script says so.
None of the actors seems to try making his character likable: Gordon-Levitt mopes around, feeling sorry for himself; Rogen shamelessly overacts the effects of the various drugs he has ingested and Mackie simply struts around and emits an arrogant and conceited vibe.
The rest of the characters are simply props for the trio to play off of.
I may sound like a Scrooge, but “The Night Before” falls into that genre of movie that uses Christmas as a plot device to excuse overindulgence and outrageous behavior. Then it tries to smooth over the nonsense with a Hallmark card-like bromide at the finale as if to make us forget or forgive everything that happened before the fade-out.
To that, I say, “Bah, humbug.”
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
1½ stars out of 4
(R), language, drug use, sexual situations, nudity, violence