My opinion of Seth Rogen is negative to say the least. Obviously I do not know him as a person, but as an actor he is the flattest of flat-lines. He seems incapable of really being a character other than himself, except when he was baked in Pineapple Express, Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs, and a Travis Bickle parallel in Observe and Report. I never saw the appeal and I do not understand how he can have such a following without Judd Apatow. Since he is on all sorts of drugs in The Night Before, however, I was not dreading my inevitable admission. Was it an entertaining performance or does the overall movie hurt the experience?
After losing his parents on Christmas Eve, Ethan, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, starts a yearly tradition with his friends Isaac and Chris, played by Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie, where they celebrate to excess all night. A few years later, the boys learn of a mythical party that goes on in secret, but they can never find it. On the last night of the tradition, they finally acquire invitations and set out to gain access.
Proving my theory that the worse the trailer, the better the movie, Night Before is actually quite good. In simple terms, it is A Christmas Carol on literal drugs. Each character has their own problems they are trying to work out that coincide with the past, present, and future. Instead of seeing ghosts, they have visions of their respective timelines through different types of weed that cause hallucinations, setting the stage for their arcs.
While that is a good set-up for a Christmas comedy, Night Before is very serious about its themes and what the characters go through. A lot of it centers on getting older and growing out of habits you were accustomed to when you were young. It also touches on loneliness and coming to terms with who you really are. It was surprising considering what I saw in the trailer and I was more than pleased with the result.
Rogen’s Isaac provided a lot of the comedy as he tried to navigate the world while on a different drug in every other scene. Some of the better parts were after the first 20 minutes where things began to escalate in the story. Levitt is one of those actors who can play just about anyone and he sold Ethan as a naïve, depressed loner obsessed with nostalgia. Mackie, on the other hand, did not do much for me. He worked as the character, but there was not much that stood out in his performance. He was certainly himself that is for sure.
The Night Before is a great little movie that takes common Christmas tropes and gives it an Apatow/Rogen twist. I would go so far as to say it is the comedy equivalent to the horror of Krampus. Between the two, both do well to subvert you expectations, and either one will do if you are looking for something unconventional. If you want a straight comedy with relatable themes, give Rogen and friends a chance. Better yet, save your money for Force Awakens.