Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Night Before

Premiered November 20, 2015.
Note:This movie is the raunchiest film we've reviewed here so far.  If you have kids, don't take them with you to see this movie.  If you're a kid, you don't want to watch this in the presence of your parents.  Trust us, 
-J.A. Morris & RigbyMel

“Gentleman, 14 years ago I lost my parents and you guys have been with me every single Christmas since then, but tonight, we have decided to end this tradition.”

During the Christmas season of 2001, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents in a car accident.  Since then his best friends Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Isaac (Seth Rogen) have spent a debauched Christmas Eve with Ethan so that he won't feel alone during the holidays.  For several years, they have heard about a mythic "holy grail" of Christmas parties called the Nutcracker Ball but have never been able to score an invitation.

Their lives are changing.  Isaac is about to become a father.  Chris' football career has finally taken off and he is a star in sports and (especially) social media.  The three friends decide this will be the final Christmas Eve they will spend together like this.

While working as an "elf" at a corporate Christmas party, Ethan comes gets hold of tickets to the Nutcracker Ball!

Meanwhile, Isaac's wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) has collected every drug in the book and given it to Isaac for the festivities as an early Christmas present.

Isaac gazes into the box that holds his cornucopia of drugs!
A stretch humvee limo is booked, they stop off to pick up some weed from their long time drug dealer, Mr. Green (Michael Shannon), and the evening begins.

Ethan, Isaac and Chris perform "Christmas In Hollis" at a karaoke bar.
However, their evening gets off to a rough start.  At a karaoke bar, Chris meets a fan who calls herself Rebecca (Ilana Glazer) and they quickly get romantic.  While Chris is ... distracted, Rebecca swipes the marijuana he'd gotten to impress one of his football teammates known as "The Messiah" (Aaron Hill).

Chris meets Rebecca.
Isaac tries the cocaine from his wife's "gift box" and gets quickly intoxicated.  He proceeds to record a video on his phone wherein he expresses how deeply freaked out he is about his impending fatherhood.  He's pretty sure he's not ready to be a parent.   Matters become more complicated when Isaac accidentally swaps phones with Sarah (Mindy Kaling), a mutual friend, and worries that his wife might see his incriminating freakout video.

Ethan runs into his ex-girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), who broke up with him because of his commitment issues.  His continued refusal to meet her parents was the last straw.  Ethan realizes that misses her and wants to get back together, but their encounter in the karaoke bar does not go well.

The three spend the rest of the night searching for Isaac's phone, Chris' weed, and the location of the Nutcracker Ball.

Will their Christmas Eve quests be successful?  Or will disaster strike?

J.A. Morris says:

The Night Before is a good comedy with solid performances by all the principles.   Gordon-Levitt, Mackie and Rogen are convincing as old friends who would do anything for each other.  Most of the other actors are also well-cast.

Michael Shannon is excellent as drug dealer Mr. Green.  Shannon goes back and forth between menacing and caring, sometimes acting as sort of a "big brother" figure to the three friends, and scaring the daylights out of them during other parts of the film.

I'll admit I'm not a fan of Miley Cyrus' music, but she's funny in a cameo where she plays herself.

There are lots of funny scenes, but I'm reluctant to go into detail that would spoil them.  Let's just say highlights include a drugged up visit to Midnight Mass, a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh that goes awry, and a brawl with two guys in Santa suits.

The Night Before contains a bunch of references to other Christmas specials and movies.  Rebecca says her behavior is inspired by the Grinch and other holiday villains.  When Chris tries to pursue her, Rebecca humiliates him in a manner inspired by Home Alone.

This movie also features a good soundtrack of holiday tunes.  Darlene Love's recording of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  It's used nicely here to accompany a fast drive through New York City on Christmas morning.

The Night Before is the first "adult" comedy we've reviewed.  It's another sign that there is "something for everyone" when it comes to Christmas programming.  It's very funny and is recommended

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 candy canes.

RigbyMel says:

I am very picky about raunchy comedies, there needs to be a bit more going on than just the raunch.   When I saw the trailer for The Night Before,  I wasn't quite sure where the heart of this film was.

Fortunately,  this is a raunchy Christmas comedy with a heart of gold.    It deals with broad themes like growing up, friendship, family (both blood related and not), and loss with good humor, while also demonstrating that holiday movies don't have to be saccharine in their delivery to be good.   Moreover, it was nice to see a New York in which there were people of various races and faiths on film.  Art could stand to do a bit more imitating life where diversity in Christmas movies in concerned.  Plus, the characters aren't just stereotypes, you feel for them and understand where they're all coming from.

It is also very, very funny, which helps.   I laughed and winced and enjoyed the whole movie.    It's not deep or anything, but it is a lot of fun.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 candy canes

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