Overview: Three longtime friends decide to embark on one final night of debauchery before their individual lives send them on their separate ways. Columbia Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 101 Minutes.
Twas the Comedy Before Christmas: Director Jonathan Levine’s work blending comedy and drama is distinctive. There are plenty of other directors that can blend core thematics and tone, but not many do it well. If they pull it off, it’s typically not as efficient as what you’ll find in Levine’s filmography. The scripted comedy beats work well to juxtapose the serious drama simmering beneath the surface.
Not a Creature Was Stirring… Except for the Cast: Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunite with their 50/50 director for another semi-fantastical but somehow grounded look at emotional companionship. Rogen and JGL have this chemistry down effortlessly from their time together on the previous Levine joint they co-led. It might be a stretch for them to ever portray brothers but if Levine (or anybody else) wants to keep pairing these two together, the world should embrace this concept with open arms. Let’s just hope they bring Anthony Mackie along for the ride. Anthony Mackie rounds out the trio as Chris Roberts, a professional sportsball player, who openly endorses what seems to be every product possible. Mackie’s cheerful demeanor makes him an instantly likable superhero in the Marvel movies, and his casual charisma on par with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson makes him an infectious screen presence.
The supporting cast is a secret dream team of comedic gold. Lizzy Caplan is an actress who consistently brings relatable humanity to all her roles even when she’s underutilized as a comedic actress (Party Down forever). Mindy Kaling shows up with Caplan’s character and reminds me to keep watching The Mindy Project. Kaling is a queen of comedic timing. Jillian Bell, as Rogen’s wife, fares better on the comedic side. Bell stole 22 Jump Street whenever she was on screen, and here she’s another comedic force of nature.What we can take away from this is that this cast is too good not to reunite at some point. The cast is entertaining and remarkably talented, but that would only be half a good comedy if it wasn’t for Levine’s consistent aforementioned juggling of weighty themes and lighthearted moments. You want a comedy to make you laugh, but a truly great comedy has a little more under the proceedings.
‘Twas the Party Before Christmas: Another recent stoner comedy aimed to set the standard for modern raunchy Christmas movies in A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas. I can say assuredly the bar has been raised. The Night Before smartly places comedic set pieces to have enough relevancy to the events to be more than just a solid stoner comedy about maturity. Like all classic Christmas movies, the most wonderful time of the year is used to have characters reflect on their lives. Have they truly done anything with their lives? Are they good enough people? Are they actually happy?
Overall: Holiday cheer and holiday gloom are two sides of the same coin. When tied together they can take characters to interesting places, even if the territory feels slightly familiar. There’s nothing wrong with a little comfort food if it’s cooked thoroughly, right? This meal will give you that warm fuzzy feeling you want during the holiday season.