The Night Before review

The Night Before is a raunchy holiday romp without the sickly sweet filling

Crude, ridiculous, and just plain dumb fun.

At this point, irreverent holiday comedies have become their very own subset of the holiday film genre. From The Ref to Bad Santa, the offerings are as varied as they are plentiful, spanning the spectrum from dark satire to over-the-top raunchy hijinks.

The Night Before, the new comedy from Warm Bodies and 50/50 director Jonathan Levine, hails from the latter side of the genre and offers a holiday story that’s equal parts drug-addled escapade (a la The Hangover) and slapstick coming-of-age story that, like so many other examples of the genre, also manages to be fairly endearing amid all the toilet humor and racy gags.

Co-written and directed by Levine, The Night Before casts Seth Rogen (The Interview), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper), and Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as a trio of childhood friends who have reunited every year on Christmas Eve to engage in all manner of debauchery. With Rogen’s character about to become a father, Mackie’s character about to become a bona fide celebrity, and Gordon-Levitt’s character still uncertain about where his life his headed, the three friends decide to bring an end to their annual tradition with one last, crazy night in New York City.

It would be easy to dismiss The Night Before as dumb fun, and in many ways that’s exactly what it is, but in this case that’s a good thing. As with other holiday films of its ilk, it playfully subverts (or outright ridicules) the usual, sappy-sweet holiday tropes and careens through the boundaries of so much of what is often held dear about the season. Everything is fair game, from sidewalk Santas and ugly sweaters to midnight Mass and Christmas marriage proposals, and Levine and his trio of leading men bounce from one ridiculous turn of events to the next on their merry adventure through the Big Apple.

In the grand old tradition of classic holiday movies, The Night Before also recruits some familiar faces to help tell its story. Miley Cyrus, James Franco, and Tracy Morgan all play brief parts in the characters’ journey from one end of the city to the other, but of the more substantial supporting roles, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon really stands out as a sketchy drug dealer who repeatedly gets pulled into the friends’ wild night — a role he plays to wonderfully creepy perfection.

It would be easy to dismiss The Night Before as dumb fun, and in many ways that’s exactly what it is, but in this case that’s a good thing.

To his credit, Levine does a nice job of maintaining momentum in the film from the moment the trio set out on their all-night holiday booze-and-drug-fest to the film’s somewhat shmaltzy final moments. Where other films might ease up on the jokes for the occasional reminder about the true meaning of the season, The Night Before rarely leans heavily on sentiment, and when it does, the moment often serves as the set-up for a joke. It’s a strategy that serves the film well by preventing it from becoming yet another sappy Christmas story masquerading as a comedy.

The trio of Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie show relatively good chemistry as the film’s leading men, but never manage to seem quite as comfortable with each other as one would expect longtime friends to be. It’s telling that most of the film’s memorable moments involve the characters interacting with their supporting cast instead of each other, but to be fair, the film’s plot spends a surprising amount of time with the characters on solo adventures around the city.

Still, all three leads manage to carry their respective parts of the story along well, and the funny moments tend to be funnier when Rogen, Mackie, and Gordon-Levitt are bouncing off of each other both literally and figuratively.

Although The Night Before manages to pack a lot of “R”-rated drug humor and sex jokes into its 101-minute running time, it still strikes a balance between its holiday theme and its over-the-top humor. Despite its flaws, the film successfully delivers on the experience promised not only by its trailer but by all of the best examples of irreverent holiday comedies: poking fun at the traditions and tropes of holiday movies while still finding sincerity buried deep in the heart of all that sentiment and schmaltz.

Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

Michelle Yeoh reportedly in talks for stand-alone ‘Star Trek’ show

Reports claims that actress Michelle Yeoh is in talks to reprise her Star Trek: Discovery role in a spin-off series. The series will focus on Georgiou being recruited into Section 31, a secretive organization within Starfleet.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Buster Scruggs,’ ‘Missing Link,’ ‘Mowgli’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mortal Engines, and the first trailer for Missing…
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Room 104,’ German thriller ‘Beat,’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Room 104 returns for a second season, Robert the Bruce fights for Scotland's throne, and more.
Business

‘The Grinch’ steals the box-office crown from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch is the new box-office champion, knocking off Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and posting a better opening weekend than Jim Carrey's 2000 live-action film based on the character.
Movies & TV

The ‘Toy Story 4’ teaser trailer is here to fork with your emotions

Disney released the first teaser trailer for its latest addition to the Toy Story franchise. The quick glimpse of what's to come shows all our favorite toys back in action, as well as a strange -- and seemingly unhinged -- new character.
Gaming

Everyone’s favorite Pokémon turns gumshoe in ‘Detective Pikachu’ trailer

The first Detective Pikachu trailer has arrived, and it looks like a video game movie could actually be good? Voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Pikachu is undeniably cute in what is shaping up to be a family-friendly buddy comedy.
Movies & TV

Stan Lee has died: Marvel Comics icon and legendary creator dead at 95

Stan Lee, one of the world's most important and iconic comic-book authors, has died at the age of 95. Creator of some of the most famous and beloved superheroes and villains of all time, Lee leaves behind an indelible legacy.
Movies & TV

Winter coming in spring? HBO reveals 'Game of Thrones' season 8 premiere date

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.