Susan Granger’s review of “The Night Before” (Columbia Pictures/Sony Entertainment)
In this stoner comedy, narrated by Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen gives a new meaning to White Christmas.
Ever since his parents were killed by a drunk driver in 2001, when he was in his late teens, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has always spent Christmas Eve drinking, eating Chinese food and carousing with his old pals Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie). But now they’re all in their 30s.
Isaac’s wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) is expecting their first baby, and Chris has become a famous pro football star/product pitchman. Ethan – an out-of-work musician who does cater-waiter gigs, often in costume – has just broken up with his girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), who left him because he refused to meet her family, even after they’ve dated for two years.
So he decides to make the guys’ final holiday hangout memorable by scoring three tickets to a secret party they’ve always yearned to find – the Nutcracka Ball – known as the wildest bash of the year.
Their boisterous adventure starts with karaoke and picks up with Michael Shannon as Mr. Green, a philosophical pot dealer. Along the way, they interact with Mindy Kaling, Lorraine Toussaint, Ilana Glazer, even James Franco and Miley Cyrus, gratuitously spoofing themselves. And the most memorable sequence involves the giant piano Tom Hanks played in “Big.”
Writer/director Jonathan Levine and his three co-writers (Evan Goldberg, Ariel Shaffir, Kyle Hunter) rely on the easy camaraderie between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, perhaps because they previously co-starred in Levine’s far superior “50/50,” about a millennial-battling-cancer.
Not surprisingly, Rogen makes Isaac’s experience by far the most interesting. Gifted with a stash of drugs by his understanding wife and wearing a blue Hanukkah sweater, he trips out with a friendly Nativity display and freaks-out with paranoia at Midnight Mass in a Catholic Church.
But mostly it’s a sloppy, repetitious, disjointed trail to self-discovery.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Night Before” is a debauchery-drenched 5, an R-rated arrested adolescent coming-to-adulthood holiday caper.