The Night Before offers little laughs....
As we've just started the 2015 holiday season, Americans are flocking to their local multiplex for a spot of entertainment. This means that they're out there looking for that perfect holiday movie. These types of movies usually involve a story with a heart that is set up against the backdrop of a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas itself. These movies are mostly always centered around a comic situation as well, which is why, on the exterior, The Night Before likely looks be the perfect holiday season movie-going fodder.
And one would be correct in that assumption about the film. Certainly an indication of The Night Before's intentions would be easily deciphered simply by one watching the film's trailer that has been heavily-touted around on television over the last several weeks. Which is fine, and The Night Before is enjoyable, but only to a degree.
The Night Before has no intentions to re-invent the comedy wheel. It was designed simply as a piece of entertainment during the holiday season hussle and bussle. In fact, its too entertaining. And it tries way too hard to be a bunch of different things all at once. It's so loaded with Hollywood tropisms that you can predict how its all going to end in the first seven minutes after its started. So the question becomes: if you know how a movie is going to end right when it begins, can you still enjoy it? The only way one can do that is if they believe and identify/sympathize with the characters.
Does The Night Before allow one to do that? Not really. The basic premise, and not to give out too many spoilers: three friends get together every year on Christmas to have a wild night out on the town together partaking in a lot of drinking and drugs. The tradition was started ten year prior when one of the friends (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loses both of his parents in a horrible car accident. His friends come to his aid, like good friends should, and they become his surrogate holiday family. Everything is kicked off when Gordon-Levitt's character steals a set of special tickets to an exclusive party that the three have been trying to get invited to for a decade while sporting some pretty funny ugly Christmas sweaters.
When you walk into the movie theater to watch something like The Night Before, something that, for better or worse, has been marketed, almost passively-impressively as a holiday movie, one doesn't think that they're going to be subjected to over-the-top debauchery that features more dicks than there are boobs and a character that is so steeped in his own drug use that he rivals Keith Richards' own in the 1970s.
The Night Before does promote heavy drug use, and doesn't attempt to, at least, suggest that it might be a bad idea to take a lot of drugs out for a night on the town in the holiday season by the end. The problem with the drug jokes in the movie is that they're just lame. All in all, the target audience for The Night Before, although the screenwriters wouldn't likely admit it, would be those between the ages of 30-35; those who have been through some drug experimentation and are well on their way to middle age suburban death, those who are stuck in crappy jobs, those who are about to become parents or parents for the second time. People under 30-35 will laugh at the jokes, but only because they've barely lived any of the experiences that the characters in the film are smack in the middle of themselves.
And what of the holiday audience? What about the Grandmas that may see the film with their family this holiday season thinking that this will be the perfect holiday season movie fare? Will the film be too much for them? Well they get the drug references or will those alienate them? After all, this isn't Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand driving in a car together across the country; a film that most likely pleased Grandma. Will Grandma appreciate the scene in The Night Before of Seth Rogen talking to his wife while he is on LSD and seeing her as a dragon? Will she find the dick pic texting scene hilarious? Doubtful. Which is why The Night Before doesn't quite work, firstly as a holiday movie, but secondly as a comedy. It's very uneven. The jokes, in particular, the drug jokes, the man questioning his sexuality jokes, are just sort of played out, they're not used here in a fresh or unique way. Perhaps those that find everything Seth Rogen does as funny; perhaps those people will find this all-in-all amusing, no matter what the age, but those people may be few and far apart. Overall, it's a very uneven film, it's predictable too. Even the "surprise" cameo of James Franco was expected. Watch for a silly Miley Cyrus cameo as well here.
In the end, The Night Before can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. While some may not find the jokes funny, they are there nonetheless, but they are so few. The scenarios aren't even absurd. The situations are mild. The film can't even manage to come across as a comedy of manners. It also tries to be this Charles Dickens Scrooge kind of thing, but in the end, because it can't decide if it wants to make you laugh, make you cry, or play into your holiday whimsy, it doesn't successfully do any of those things because it tries to go into all three directions at one time.