Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell and Michael Shannon
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: December 4th
Seth Rogen comedies have become something of a genre of their own. They have their own tropes, their regular actors, and the usual jokes about odd social interactions, pop culture and of course, drugs.
Due to this, it can be easy to forget, in the midst of the two-hour Judd Apatow analyses of middle age, the apocalypses, the controversial attacks on faraway dictatorships, or even the odd the break into more serious dramatic roles, just how funny a film that falls under the banner of, ‘Seth Rogen comedy,’ can be.
And director Jonathan Levine, no newcomer to the comedy game, has crafted an able if unoriginal modern love story to the classic seasonal features played traditionally each year.
Heading up the endeavour are our three unwise men, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and of course, Seth Rogen. Each have lessons to learn as they set off on the final year of the Christmas Eve tradition they have upheld since the death of Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents, fourteen years before. Ethan now refuses to grow up, Chris (Anthony Mackie) a football player, has found success late in his career thanks to steroids, and Seth Rogen’s Isaac has a baby on the way, for which he seems so prepared that his wife gifts him a box of drugs so that he might enjoy his night to the fullest. Along the way there are the usual spills and pratfalls, as the trio traverse New York city on Christmas Eve in search of legendary party The Nutcracker Ball.
And while certainly not without its flaws, the journey is funny and filled with its own sort of heart. Seth Rogen’s Isaac, in particular, out of his mind on his wife’s gift and struggling to balance himself for the duration of the adventure, is very entertaining, and his trip to a church or his text conversation with an anonymous suitor are funnier than any Christmas movie has managed in a long time. Anthony Mackie is likable as ever, which helps to sell the role of the steroid enhanced, social media-obsessed athlete, and Joseph Gordon Levitt is a comfortable and entertaining loser with potential. There is no weak link in the cast, and Michael Shannon’s drug dealer, Jillian Bell as Rogen’s wife and Mindy Kaling all stand out as the endearing supporting cast.
As a Christmas film, it has some nice little nods to the genre, some of which are very funny indeed. It also seems to hold the holiday in quite high esteem, which could be seen as an uncool perspective for an adult Christmas comedy. It never falls into the easy conflict of having any of our leads disliking Christmas in order to discover its true meaning; in fact, the only character who doesn’t like Christmas, Ilana Glazer’s Rebecca, is portrayed as a villain, following eagerly in the footsteps of Scrooge, the Grinch (with whom she shares a surname) and her ‘boy Hans Gruber.’ This Christmas villain storyline however, sort of tapers off and never really feels worth it, making it one of the weak points of The Night Before.
Certainly a cut above most modern Christmas films, but certainly no classic, you could do worse than to add this to the yearly tradition.