50/50 stars Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunite with that film’s director for The Night Before, a wild and raunchy holiday comedy that has a surprising amount of heart. Amid all the debauchery of a final Christmas Eve night out together for three best bros, a story of friendship, loyalty, and healing unfolds that makes The Night Before something more than just a goofy R-rated comedy.
The holiday tradition began when Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) helped their friend Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) celebrate Christmas Eve following the death of his parents. The annual holiday tradition involves the donning of ugly Christmas sweaters followed by karaoke in a dive bar and a performance on FAO Schwartz’ giant piano (think Tom Hanks in Big). There’s lots of drinking and carousing involved in the annual Christmas Eve trek around New York, but now that the guys have grown up and grown apart it’s time to put an end to their annual night out. Isaac is just days from being a first-time dad and Chris is now a big-time football star. Only Ethan, who is still moping about a break-up with his longtime girlfriend (Lizzy Caplan), feels left behind as his buddies are moving on with their lives and starting new traditions of their own.
The stage is set to send off the tradition of ho-ho-drunken-ho’ing with a bang after Ethan steals three tickets to the hottest, most exclusive party in town: the Nutcracka Ball. And when Isaac’s wife (the wickedly funny Jillian Bell) presents him with a box loaded with a sampler pack of drugs including cocaine and shrooms, the Christmas Eve tradition escalates to a whole new level of depravity.
The Night Before is often silly and occasionally too sweet, but the trio of Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie make the more unexpectedly emotional moments easy to swallow. Rogen in particular is in the groove as a soon-to-be-dad who attempts to balance out his overindulgence in cocaine with more shrooms. Mackie is more of the straight man of the group, playing an NFL player who’s obsessed with his social media accounts and with scoring primo weed for his QB. Gordon-Levitt is the trio’s heart and the way into the story for audiences.
The Night Before also features a Santa’s toy bag full of celebrity cameos including Mindy Kaling,, Miley Cyrus, and James Franco, as well as the appearance of Michael Shannon in a supporting role as the weed-dealing ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
The Night Before is naughty but nice, spreading holiday cheer delivered through a cloud of weed smoke by a cast with real chemistry. There are penis jokes, drunken Santas, crazy slapstick moments, and Rogen as a Jewish guy who finds himself stoned out of his mind throwing up in the middle of a Christmas Eve mass in a Catholic Church. Not since Bad Santa has there been a holiday comedy quite this fun and twisted.
MPAA Rating: R for drug use and language throughout, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2015