A trio of friends have one last big Christmas together.
‘Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie hanging out and being funny at Christmas – that’s the kind of thing I would watch.’
If this is a sentence which you agree with, then you’ll probably have fun with The Night Before. It’s a film which relies quite heavily on the charm and appeal of its three leads and a dramedy mix which thankfully mostly leans in the direction of laughs.
It’s kind of about growing up, mostly told from the perspective of Gordon-Levitt’s Ethan who has a laundry list of issues and remains a man child at the age of 33. He has a successful athlete friend in Mackie’s Chris and a father-to-be pal in Rogen’s Isaac.
You can pretty much guess the dynamics from those character set ups and there’s nothing revelatory going on here. If anything the drama is a bit underdeveloped and the plotting often awkward if not downright nonsensical.
But this is a comedy, so that pretty much doesn’t matter. It’s all set up to craft one liners for the cast and aimed at putting Rogen in the most uncomfortable situations possible. I’ve recently gotten a bit fed up watching the 33 year old being out of his mind on drugs so frequently, but it’s actually pretty hilarious here, likely because he’s otherwise a normal, stand up guy who is going through some personal issues.
Mackie isn’t the most electrifying performer but he can deliver a comedy line when required before pretty much fading into the background. His character development is pretty minimal, despite having a good amount of screentime.
Gordon-Levitt is playing very much against type here as a troubled child in a man’s body. He looks older than I’ve ever seen him play and is also more beaten down by life and gets some dramatic moments here. It’s another glimpse at the stars acting range, which we’ll hopefully see more of in the future.
The supporting players are all really there for laughs, with Michael Shannon managing to be one of the standouts. A cameo from Miley Cyrus is surprisingly entertaining and James Franco’s significantly less so.
I would have liked a little more meat on the dramatic bones, especially from the director of 50/50 but as a festive comedy The Night Before Delivers a good number of hearty laughs.