The Night Before Review: This is Your Christmas on Drugs

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Just as National Lampoon did before them, Seth Rogen and his frat pack have continuously churned out R-rated comedies somewhere between above average and great. For this generation’s most reliable source of laughs, The Night Before is their Christmas Vacation.

That it to say, the only real difference between this film and This is the End or Superbad is that it takes place at that most jolly time of year. And, like Christmas Vacation, the lack of originality doesn’t really end up hurting the film that much. It’s both hilarious and warm with holiday cheer. Just in this case, the egg nog has shrooms in it.

The Night Before is the story of three high school buddies who’ve held up a Christmas tradition to go out as hard as they can on Christmas Eve a little too long into their adult lives. Isaac (Seth Rogen) is about to be a father. Chris (Anthony Mackie) is a pro athlete with a huge social media following. All that’s left is Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who can barely hold onto a job or the woman he loves. But when Ethan gets tickets to an underground Christmas party in Brooklyn, the guys go out for one last hurrah before putting the tradition to rest.

The comedy here, as one would expect, comes from the shenanigans the friends get into while trashed and/or on drugs. Rogen, proving more so than ever that he’s one of the most gifted physical comedians of our age, gets the film’s best bit: attending midnight mass with his wife’s family while very, very high.

But the best surprise is from Michael Shannon, who plays a spaced out, weed-dealing version of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life. His startling intensity with each of the three chief actors is a highlight of the movie.

In the end though, The Night Before still manages to have poignant moments of friendship that lift it above the typical R-rated comedy, just as Superbad and the others did before it. Even when the cheese gets laid on a little thick, you remember it’s a Christmas movie and the cynicism fades away. There are enough belly laughs to keep audiences happy while letting the theme of evolving traditions ring true. See it with the friends you both party the hardest with and want your kids to call aunts and uncles. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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