One of my favorite movies of 2011 was a dramedy about a young man dealing with cancer called 50/50. It was directed by Jonathan Levine, starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick, and was an absolute gem. Since that movie came out, I’ve been waiting to see if that team would reassemble and, if they did, what that follow-up project would look like.
I wait no more.
Levine, Rogen, and Gordon-Levitt has returned to bring us this year’s Christmas themed comedy, THE NIGHT BEFORE. Rogen and Gordon-Levitt are joined by Anthony Mackie as three childhood best friends who have a yearly tradition of partying together on Christmas Eve. This has been a tradition because Gordon-Levitt’s Ethan lost his parents around that time. This year, however, Mackie’s Chris has become a famous football star and Rogen’s Isaac is a father-to-be, so they have to put an end to their Christmas bro-fest.
While very funny, 50/50 is more of a dramedy about facing cancer as a young man. THE NIGHT BEFORE, however, has only one goal: To make you laugh. And in that regard it is a rousing success. These laughs are due to the great cast that they have built. Not only are Rogen, Mackie, and Gordon-Levitt funny, they are also wonderful actors who make you care about what happens to them as individuals and as a group of friends. There are also some great supporting turns by Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Nathan Fielder. The MVP of the movie is definitely Michael Shannon, whose role in the movie I dare not spoiler for you.
The movie isn’t for everyone. The humor is extremely vulgar with its best jokes being about the crucifixion of Christ, erroneous dick-pic text messages, and heavy drug use. If this kind of humor is up your alley, you will adore this movie. There were several moments where I had tears streaming down my face and I was out-of-breath due to laughing so hard.
Even though it is a gross-out comedy, the movie still has a very tender beating heart. I found myself relating to and sympathizing with Ethan while respecting Chris and Isaac’s decision to push for this to be their ‘end of an era’ celebration. There is magic in this movie. Not just in terms of the use of actual magic (which there is), but also in the way that holidays are for forgiveness, healing, and most of all… Love. There is magic in all of these things and the movie is very much interested in the way the holidays are steeped in that power. The movie tells us that friendship is family and there is nothing more important than family. Loss permeates the movie and it really struck a chord with me that you need to really invest yourself emotionally in your family and the holidays because you honestly don’t know how much time left with them you have.
I don’t know that I will be watching THE NIGHT BEFORE as a Christmas tradition, but I do know that I will be watching it again very soon.