"I Think You Might be Gay." "I'm Not Gay Right Now." "Okay."
So, I normally love this kind of movie. The first Shooter review I ever wrote was for “Neighbors”, another drug- and alcohol-fueled romp about the leads growing into functioning adults. In some ways, this film is like “Neighbors” with a Christmas-themed skin, but it lacks something “Neighbors” had in spades: focus.
“The Night Before” gets twenty extra points added to its score because of its madcap zaniness, and five extra points for each actor I loved who makes a cameo appearance. Aside from our heavy-hitting male leads, stars such as Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer, James Franco (playing a bisexual alternate-universe version of himself) and Tracy Morgan (welcome back, Tray) spring into the fray and pull out some great stuff. Many of my favorite moments seem improvised (Ilana Glazer coyly telling Anthony Mackie to take a dump as they have sex on a public toilet is too wonderfully gross for me to believe it was scripted), to the point where I suspect I would have enjoyed the film more if they’d given the actors total control. For all the moments that hit their mark, there are just as many that slide away unfulfilled or wasted. For example, the three main characters (or Three Dumbasses) are all going through powerful emotional journeys amidst the party-hopping and pot humor in the film, but the strength of the storytelling varies wildly. The weakest link is unfortunately Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, who is the pin that keeps the rest of the cast together. While his struggles of being in arrested development and fearing change are relatable, especially to the film’s intended audience, in the end his fears aren’t specific enough to carry his third of the movie. His plot also ends up dragging down Lizzy Caplin, a great comedian who was trying her best but was ultimately wasted as Levitt’s romantic foil.
No, the true star in this film is once again Seth Rogan, who I believe could do this kind of movie in his sleep by now. His character is violently high throughout most of the film, and while that state of being could spell death to a lesser actor, Rogan fills each moment with such awe-inspiring presence and focus that I wanted things to get even WORSE for him just to see what he would do. He was committed to finding the new corners in the rabbit hole his character found himself in, and that kept what is ultimately a tired premise alive. The film needed more of that.
“The Night Before” in general needed to curate the party more than it ended up doing. There were so many side trips and plot points that kept covering the same ground, and the only way comedies like this work is if we learn new things after every roadblock, about the characters or the larger story. The film was light on moments of discovery, but when those moments did happen it felt like going outside after being trapped underground. I felt awake in those moments, but they came too few and far between to make this movie a holiday classic.
Vodka Redbull. Get your party on.
-Drink whenever someone says “Christmas”
-Drink whenever someone smokes pot ingests another drug
-Drink when someone talks about Isaac being Jewish
-Drink when Chris records something on his phone
-Drink when someone falls down or is pushed
This review was written by Hollis Beck (Krissy Pappau). "The Night Before" is produced by Good Universe and LStar Capital, and distributed by Colombia Pictures. The film is rated "R" with a run time of 101 minutes.
Special thanks to my patrons Caroline Kittredge Faustine, Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin and Antonia Beck. Your support helped make this article happen!