Follow Us on Twitter

The Night Before - DVD Review

The Night Before

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JONATHAN Levine’s The Night Before may be a rowdy and disjointed stoner comedy but it somehow gets by in spite of its many flaws – much like its central characters.

The film follows the fortunes of three life-long friends – Jewish husband and worried father-to-be Isaac (Seth Rogen), ageing NFL star Chris (Anthony Mackie) and slacker man-child Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – as they set out to fulfil a long-held Christmas ambition by finding The Nutcracka Ball.

En route, there are the inevitable fall-outs and mis-adventures, some of which succeed in landing some genuinely big laughs and others which fall wide of the mark. But thanks to the engaging chemistry between its central trio and some solid support from the likes of Michael Shannon and Mindy Kaling, The Night Before emerges as a ‘trip’ worth taking.

Levine, of course, is no slouch when it comes to creating slick indie comedies with a hint of cool. The Wackness, in particular was an early, over-looked gem, while 50/50, his first venture with Rogen and Gordon-Levitt, proved he could handle big laughs and sensitive drama.

The Night Before is less adept at juggling those latter two components, occasionally jarring in the way that it jumps between heartfelt and crude sometimes within a scene. But then it plays up the stoner elements and makes no apology for existing in a somewhat heightened state where anything could happen at any minute.

Hence, there are many surreal elements that may polarise some viewers, with Shannon’s drug dealing wannabe angel a particularly ‘out there’ creation, who works solely because of Shannon’s handling of the material.

The edgy nature of the comedy also stems from the fact that many of the scenes rely on the improvisation between its central players, which – like an improvised stand-up routine – can miss as much as it hits. It does, however, ensure there’s plenty of energy in every scene, as well as an uncertainty as to what could happen [or be said] next.

And even then the laughs may leave you feeling guilty, stemming as they do from a string of penis jokes that end up on Rogen’s phone, or the same actor’s experiences at Midnight Mass – although a Big-style piano dance to Kanye West is an inspired pop culture referencing highlight.

The film also finds itself having to work hard to make the central characters endearing, with the celebrity-obsessed Mackie a particularly difficult sell, but even Gordon-Levitt’s impossibly juvenile Ethan testing audience goodwill at various points.

But if you can get over its obvious shortcomings, The Night Before does fulfil the principal rule of a comedy: it makes you laugh, often in spite of yourself. And while not particularly memorable, or destined to become the Christmas classic it strives to be (a la Bad Santa), it’s an amiable way to spend an evening.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 97mins
UK Release Date: March 28, 2016