‘The Night Before’ Takes an Irreverent Look at the Holidays

There’s something to be said for the irreverent holiday movie. Too often, cheap sentimentality rules the day. Leave it to loud-mouthed actor Seth Rogen and fellow actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie. Though ultimately uneven, the movie, which opens today area-wide, provides a few good laughs as it satirizes holiday traditions.

The rather flimsy premise revolves around a holiday tradition that finds long-time friends Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) heading out to celebrate the holiday by bar-hopping. Since Isaac and his wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) are set to have a child soon and since Chris has become a big-time football star, the tradition will come to an end. So the guys plan to go out in style. And much like that motley crew in The Hangover, they get a little crazy.

To start the night off, they meet up with a creepy drug dealer Mr. Green (Michael Shannon) to score some weed for the night. Shannon is great as Green, who acts as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Though a total stoner, he still manages to give them bits of advice on how to get through life. His half-baked moments are the film’s true highlights.

As the guys set out to find a secret holiday party that’s the stuff of legend, Isaac ingests a slew of drugs and begins hallucinating, something that doesn’t go over well with his wife when he joins her at a midnight mass and starts apologizing on behalf of Jewish people everywhere for what happened to Christ.

Some of the hijinx are hilarious. Ethan has a go at singing “Wrecking Ball” with Miley Cyrus, who makes a cameo. And the guys do a good rendition of Run D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis.” But while these would make for good skits on Saturday Night Live, they don’t necessarily contribute to the story.

In fact, when the film turns serious as Isaac contemplates fatherhood, Chris questions his decision to juice and Ethan tries to get back with his ex-girlfriend, it wavers some and doesn’t effectively balance the satire with the serious stuff.   

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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