Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. It's a time of family, of friends, of food, of festivities ... And if The Night Before is to be believed, it's a time of a lot more F-words as well.
Like, a lot more.
The R-rated comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie is filled with drugs, sex, language and some questionable (at best) religious humor, making it not a movie you'll want to put on the TV as your entire family bakes cookies for Santa. But it also promised to be an exceptionally dumb comedy, and I've been known to enjoy those from time to time.
And if there's one film genre I can rely on friend and fellow GuideLive reporter Sarah Blaskovich to appreciate, it's dumb comedies. So we went to the movie together. What did we think?
Sarah: On the whole, no. I expected to walk in and laugh myself silly. There were some funny parts, but The Night Before is far from the funniest movie this year.
That said, I recommend seeing it once. But should it replace my annual Christmas Vacationbinge? No way.
Amazingly, Britton, I got the feeling that you liked it better than me. (And you never seem to enjoy stupid-funny movies.) What was it about this movie that made you like it?
Britton: I do think I liked it more than you, which surprises me. Don't get me wrong, I can definitely appreciate some really dumb humor, but it's not a genre of film I usually go out of my way to see.
The Night Before is about three adult men who have celebrated Christmas together, with the same traditions, for years. But as they're getting older they decided that this year will be their last hurrah. That's hardest for Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who lost his parents in an accident during the Christmas season and has been filling that void with his friends for years.
I laughed more than I expected, even when things went way too far (the word "irreverent" probably doesn't go far enough to describe some of the things that happen), but I also found those human parts of the movie surprisingly touching, probably because I'm about to go experience the first Christmas since my mom died earlier this year. So I found Ethan very relatable.
That said, the plot was also very predictable.
Sarah: I wonder if most movie-goers will find this movie predictable like you did. Because it was a dumb comedy, I wasn't trying to guess what happens at the end. It was more about the silly journey than the destination. But looking back, yes, this is a story that's been told lots of times.
Let's talk about a few of the unpredictable parts: all those cameos.
I did not expect to see James Franco and Tracy Morgan and Ilana from Broad City. Movie fans will love seeing those big celebrities (and more) make quick appearances.
Britton: Agreed. I was particularly happy to see James Franco. He and Seth Rogen always have the best bromance-y chemistry together.
Sarah: So Seth Rogen. I love him even though he plays the same character in most of his comedies. In The Night Before, he's Isaac, the man who is about to become a dad for the first time. So what does his wife do? She buys him every drug she can think of and suggests he experiments with all of them in one night.
I gotta say: Seth Rogen's drugged-out character is really believable.
Britton: I don't spend a lot of time with people who do drugs, but I'm with you. His high-as-eff reactions to everything were some of the funnier parts of the movie for me, even when I knew the end result was just going to be, "Everything goes incredibly wrong."
Speaking of characters on drugs, though, one of my favorites was Mr. Green (Michael Shannon), a drug dealer that operates in the same role as The Oracle in the Matrix movies. What'd you think of him?
Sarah: He was a great part of the movie. Mr. Green is one of the few mysteries in the film, and I think viewers will have fun figuring him out. In my mind, Shannon seemed to have channeled The Dude in The Big Lebowski for that whole movie. And I liked it.
Last question, Britton: Would you see this movie again?
Britton: I wouldn't see it in theaters again, but would I put it on in the background during the Christmas season next year? Yeah, maybe.
I wouldn't put it on if I had family around, though. I don't think my in-laws would really appreciate a gag in which someone gets faux-crucified.
Sarah: Or where a woman steals a guy's weed while they're doin' it in a bar bathroom.
Britton: Yeah. This raunchy comedy is not exactly Home Alone, despite how many times it got referenced.
Sarah: For what it's worth, I wouldn't re-watch Home Alone either. Maybe Christmas comedies aren't my thing.
Britton: OK, that's gonna have to be a whole different discussion. Let's end this one so I can find out what's wrong with your taste in Christmas movies.