film reel image

film reel image

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Night Before 2015 * 1/2 Stars

Director: Jonathan Levine
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie

Have you ever been at a party, had a few too many drinks, said (and did) some things you might regret, and woke up with a flaming hangover (I know I have)? That my friends, is the movie equivalent of watching 2015's The Night Before (my newest review). This is a film that needed four writers to knock out its script. I find that interesting since everything is pretty much improvised (sloppily) the whole way through. "Night" is vexatious, tiresome, annoying, and oh yeah, it's a stoner comedy. Cue Seth Rogen spewing Evan Goldberg dialogue, inhaling mounds of shrooms, and giving everyone the usual imagery of sticky ickiness. In the immortal words of Ebenezer Scrooge, "Bob, I haven't taken leave of my senses, I've come to them." For me, my senses say to see this flick only if someone pays for your ticket. Natch!

So brilliant doing supporting work in Steve Jobs (one of 2015's best), Rogen regresses incredibly this time around. He basically plays a curly-haired doofus who gets wasted for the film's entire running time. His character is father-to-be Isaac. Isaac, accompanied by his two best friends (Ethan played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Chris played by Anthony Mackie), have a Christmas tradition. Every December 24th, they hit New York City for some serious debauchery. Along with getting totally inebriated, they also have other traditions like eating egg drop soup, singing Run-D.M.C. Karaoke-style, hanging out at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and playing foot piano to the tunage of Mr. Kanye West. They've been partaking in this yuletide lore for 14 years. Why? Because Ethan's parents died in a car accident via 2001 and his buddies wanted to be there for him during some trying times. Here's the rub however: This is the last time Isaac, Chris, and Ethan are gonna hang out on Christmas Eve. Isaac's wife is about to give birth and Chris is a star football player (he won't have time). Finally, everyone is getting older and the need to move on is evident.

In The Night Before, all the shananigans culminate with these dudes hitting the ultimate party (the Nutcracker Ball). The journey involves Isaac taking a ton of drugs given to him by his wife (huh?), Ethan trying to hook up with the girl that broke his heart (Diana played by Lizzy Caplan), and Chris itching to score some weed to impress the messiah quarterback he's teammates with (Aaron Hill as Tommy Owens). There's some engrossing cameos (James Franco, Miley Cyrus, Tracey Morgan), an extreme, bathroom sex scene, and comparing penises on a smartphone. I laughed once and with this being a so-called comedy, it's safe to say that I won't render a recommendation.

Ultimately, The Night Before's main culprit has to be the screenplay along with Jonathan Levine's haphazard direction and a runny, bare bones plot. The actors/actresses speak with a certain banality while trying too hard for audience laughs. As they ramble along in idle fashion, brief revelations about the importance of holiday cheer somehow seep through. That didn't keep me from deeming "Night" as almost unwatchable (I will say though that considering this thing was shot in April of 2014, the set designs and use of NYC locales are unbelievably Christmassy).

In conclusion, if you disliked This Is the End and The Interview (I'm in that camp), you won't be persuaded to see the The Night Before. After all, they're all made by the same personal. My rating: 1 and a half stars.

Of note: To get into the Xmas spirit, watch Bill Murray's Scrooged instead. It's angry, it's overacted, and Richard Donner directs outside the text. However, the one-liners resonate much better. "The bitch hit me with a toaster" sounds funnier than "we did not kill Jesus" repeated over and over.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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