Editor’s Note: The Night Before opened in wide theatrical release on November 20th. For an additional perspective, read The Night Before: An Entirely Unnecessary Dudebro Comedy.
Seth Rogen loves his friends, and loves to reteam with them whenever he has the opportunity to. This is the End proved that in 2013 and then some, featuring scores of his fellow comedians all playing themselves while performing absurdly hilarious situational comedy. 2014 saw The Interview, in which he and his best friend James Franco had their characters undergo a very meta arc pertaining to their very real bromance. The Night Before is 2015’s evidence of this continuing (and endearing) trend, which boasts costar Joseph Gordon-Levitt and director Jonathan Levine, who both previously collaborated with Rogen on the wonderful dramedy 50/50. Anthony Mackie comes along for the ride as well, and he’s lucky he did, because The Night Before is one damn good ride.
It’s hard to count how many finely crafted jokes and situations procure laughs of the highest order . . .
Just like in 50/50, the emotional core of The Night Before is centered around Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, albeit entirely different subject matter. The film begins following that character, Ethan, becoming closely acquainted with his best pals, Isaac and Chris (Rogen and Mackie respectively), during the early 2000’s in the wake of his parents’ untimely deaths. Throughout the ensuing years after this tragedy, they’d have a wild night on the town whenever Christmas Eve rolled around, always seeking out a famed party called “The Nutcracker Ball.” But, fast-forward to 2015, and Ethan’s best pals have, in one way or another, grown past this tradition. They feel the need to move on, as their careers and personal lives are slowly becoming overwhelming. Ethan, however, does not want to move on, and doesn’t. So, when he comes across three passes to the Nutcracker Ball, he giddily informs his pals, and the three of them set out on one final night to end the grand tradition so deeply rooted in their friendship.
Written by both Jonathan Levine and longtime friend/collaborator of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, The Night Before is two things. Excessively funny and incredibly heartfelt, the former on account of Goldberg and the latter on account of Levine. It’s hard to count how many finely crafted jokes and situations procure laughs of the highest order, and to counter all of that, Levine offers an emotional arc of friendship and moving forward that is so, so effective. The only trouble is, that’s where the film’s dominant issue lies, though it’s not a substantial one. It’s neither in the humor nor the emotional arc, but instead in the relationship between the two. The tones of the two are balanced to great effect, however, it’s what’s beyond tone that clashes.
. . .the laughs in The Night Before are plentiful, and the emotional scenes hit, but they feel separated from one another, like two substances mixing fairly well, but not combining to form a new product.
50/50 is so wonderful because it basked in its realism. It never went to extensive lengths for comic relief, always providing that through simply dialogue, and that’s why it’s so well-rounded both as a comedy and a drama. Goldberg’s comedies are wonderful, even if they contain emotional arcs, because they’re never afraid to go to any length for a laugh, and the emotional arcs are inflated to accommodate for the comedy’s scope, thus making everything an extravagantly enjoyable affair. So, when Goldberg and Levine joined forces, it seems neither made changes to their style in order to assist the other. So as a result, the laughs in The Night Before are plentiful, and the emotional scenes hit, but they feel separated from one another, like two substances mixing fairly well, but not combining to form a new product. The absurdism and the realism clash, but don’t ruin one another at all. Thankfully, they’re both done very well in the first place.
There are many fantastic cameos and lots of memorable running jokes in the film, and its three leads have wonderful chemistry, pulling at heartstrings to shockingly heavy effect. While it’s not the most well-rounded thing Levine, Rogen, and Goldberg have individually done, it’s still a memorable, hilarious ride with some Christmas cheer, emotional punches, and humorous drug trips. Seth Rogen, thank you for being alive.
While it's not the most well-rounded thing Levine, Rogen, and Goldberg have individually done, it's still a memorable, hilarious ride with some Christmas cheer, emotional punches, and humorous drug trips. Seth Rogen, thank you for being alive.