When boys eventually grow up into being men it means amongst other things that they have to stop believing in Father Christmas and take a more mature attitude to the whole holiday season. However these best friends from their long gone school days are still hanging on to their immature past for one last time to insanely celebrate the Christmas Eve the exact same way they have down for the past decade. The tradition started when Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents in a car accident and so Isaac (Seth Rogan) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) took it upon themselves to be his family. Life has moved on for Isaac who is now married and about to be a father for the first time, and Chris is a professional footballer who has recently become a very famous celebrity (helped by his new found love of steroids), but Ethan is still stuck in a rut as he still doesn’t have a steady job, and his girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan) broke up with him because of his fear of commitment.
He’s not the only one who is afraid, as Isaac’s wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) is scared rigid about becoming a mother for the first time and as a way of rewarding her husband for being a tower of strength during her pregnancy, she hands him a stash of recreational drugs as a gift for his one last night out with the boys. So the three men set off for their insane hedonistic night, dressed in their traditional tasteless Xmas sweaters …..Isaac’s boasts a very large Star of David on the front …..to do all the customary activities such as going to Rockefeller Center’s Tree, singing “Christmas in Hollis” in karaoke bar, eating Chinese food etc. This year will be different as Ethan has managed to get his hands on tickets to the Nutcracker Ball, a party that is so exclusive that no-one is even told of it’s exact location until the very last moment.
Isaac is really unsure exactly what drugs are packed in his box so he just pops them in his mouth like Aspirins and when he starts freaking out, he just keeps taking more different ones in the desperate hope they may counterbalance his now drug fueled haze. He is not the only one dealing with issues that night as Chris is trying to score some pot from their old school teacher Mr Green (an unrecognizable Michael Shannon) just to impress his more important team mates, and Ethan bumps into Diana his ex, and realizes he was a fool to let her go.
What follows is crazy mayhem in this hilarious comic farce which revels in this three big boys behaving badly. Seth Rogan essentially takes playing Seth Rogan up another notch in one of his more extreme performances to date. He is side-splitting funny for nearly most of the time, although there is the occasional miss-fire such as when Isaac nose-drips cocaine blood into a someone’s drink, which was too gross for words. There is also the rather questionable sequence which falls totally flat when he is in possession of the wrong phone and receives text pictures of a penis from a man called ‘James’ who is played clothed by Rogan’s buddy James Franco.
Ethan as played by Gordon-Leavitt is the romantic of the group that will always make the woman swoon, and he is perfect in that part. Asides from proving that he is quite a mean singer, he has a neat scene with Miley Cyrus (playing herself) who helps him attempting a reconciliation with Diane, which as this is a Christmas movie, we know will have to work out. Gordon-Leavitt’s naivete is refreshing and he certainly adds a level of depth to the role, as does Mackie as Chris, which ensures that the whole affair just doesn’t denigrate into one big silly mess. However the scene stealer of the night has to be Michael Shannon as the most sensible stoned pot-head ever, and he is a sheer delight to watch.
The Night Before is an odd-ball off-kilter bad-ass comedy that is far from the usual Christmas fare, and for that alone is worth a view. It does at least however keep to one including traditional element by making sure that everyone gets to be all warm and fuzzy by the end, and live happily ever after.