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 ( and The Film Yap ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes:


1½ stars out of 4
(R), language, drug use, sexual situations, nudity, violence


  • ReelBob

    Share your thoughts. Am I being too harsh on this film? Drop a line to ReelBob.

  • Jay

    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.

    • Thank you for that informative and interesting information. Appreciate it.