One of my favorite Christmas movies!!

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 ways The Night Before pays homage to classic holiday movies.

‘Tis the season for holiday movies, and this year offers a legitimately great one: The Night Before, which reunites writer/director Jonathan Levine with his 50/50 stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen for a not-so-family-friendly Christmas romp that’s both hilarious and surprisingly touching.“The Night Before,” starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is based on a group of friends who decide to look for an epic Christmas Eve party — and fill their night with booze and debauchery.Less than a year ago, the Seth Rogen vehicle “The Interview,” a film that ridiculed North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, brought Sony to its knees and cost former Sony head Amy Pascal her job and the company millions. The movie centers on Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), a 30-something aspiring musician who’s been a bit stuck in life ever since his parents were killed by a drunk driver around Christmastime.

Meanwhile, “Krampus” — which premieres December 4 — is a horror comedy that deals with the legend of a Christmas demon who comes to a family’s house instead of Santa Claus. The pre-Thanksgiving release of Jonathan Levine’s “The Night Before” celebrates those Christmas blessings that are beloved by all: scatological humor, smarmy sentimentality, and gross product placement.

They’ve spent every Christmas Eve since childhood – that’s 14 straight for anyone counting — expanding the definition of “holiday spirit” by being much more naughty than nice. Since the accident, he and his two best friends, Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), have maintained an annual holiday tradition of partying together on Christmas Eve, one that involves karaoke, the tree at the Rockefeller Center, and the search for the white whale of Christmas parties: the Nutcracker Ball, a mysterious and exclusive event that promises a life-changing partying experience. Although most Christmas movies end with the notion that the holiday should be filled with gratitude and cheer, some films feature some real low moments to get there. “Nightmare” deals with a relatable feeling of being alone during these times of coming together.

The movies Rogen stars in, produces and sometimes co-writes and co-directs (“Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express,” “Superbad” and “This Is the End,” among others) all have some very obvious common threads: bros being bros, drug use and juvenile behavior, plus the slightest whisper of sentimentality to balance out all the puking and penis jokes. Because there comes that day when Christmas is no longer about bros getting wasted and engaging in puerile “Hangover”-like excesses, that day when they must grow up and face adulthood. The three men are childhood friends from New York City who celebrated their first Christmas Eve together shortly after the death of Ethan’s parents left him alone in the world. The story could technically have happened on any day, but the fact that it is Christmas makes McClane’s situation — alone, trying to reconcile with his wife — a little bit more meaningful.

In this version of the tale, aging best friends go through that traumatic initiation in Manhattan while in search of a legendary party called the “Nutcracka Ball.” Guided by a mystery drug dealer named Mr. Their script notwithstanding, the film is so loose, so arbitrary, and so repetitious, with the focal characters so sketchily drawn, we get the feeling that the players are making it up as they go along.

A lot of what Bill Murray — along with writers Mitch Glazer and “SNL” legend Michael O’Donoghue — brings a more blunt, direct attitude to the then-modern re-telling of the Dickens classic. Green (a very cool Michael Shannon), they run through a rough recap of “A Christmas Carol” (or at least Bill Murray’s 1988 version, “Scrooged”). But considering that Isaac’s wife is about to have a baby and his friend Chris’s (Anthony Mackie) NFL career is taking off, the two have convinced their less successful third amigo, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), that this year’s revelry will be the group’s grand finale.

Ideas for bits that might have struck the writers and/or players as amusing at rehearsals fall flat in ways that absolutely scream for retakes and cuts. It’s basically The Odyssey, except instead of an epic poem about a warrior trying to return home,The Night Before is the story of a man-child attempting to spend Christmas Eve getting epically fucked up with his “ride or die” bros. That’s certainly the case with Ice Cube’s most recent “Friday” film, which features Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps) retrieving Christmas presents from a thief. Sex, drugs and karaoke ensue along with shenanigans that include Isaac tossing his cookies during midnight mass, hanky-panky in a filthy bar bathroom and graphic text message photos you may never forget. What few laughs there are come mostly from Rogen’s zonked-out-of-his-mind riff, which stands apart from the skimpy narrative and reeks of creative desperation.

Of course, The Odyssey isn’t exactly Christmassy, so it’s a good thing that writer/director Levine didn’t find all his inspiration in classic Greek literature. There are a few mild satirical swipes – nothing to write home about — that appear to be trying to give Bad Santa a run for its nose-thumbing money.

The best things about the film are, believe it or not, a sweet-natured and funny cameo by Miley Cyrus as herself and the friends’ former high school drug dealer Mr. But there is also a half-hearted dash of forced sentiment, perhaps to justify ’s existence as a holiday-season attraction that’s not exactly aimed at the family audience, the usual target for Christmas-celebrating films.

Isaac is now married with a child on the way, and Chris has become a famous football player, but Ethan is still doing the same things he’s been doing for more than a decade. This is, of course, reminiscent of Kevin McCallister’s plight in Home Alone, and while Ethan may be battling drunk Santas instead of bumbling petty thieves, both are fighting to keep the spirit of Christmas intact. With this chemical support Rogen turns in a hilariously accurate depiction of an unending bad trip, the high points include him vomiting during a midnight mass. Mackie is probably best known for his dramatic roles and his superhero alter-ego (he plays Falcon in an ever-expanding number of Marvel movies), so it’s exciting to see him bring the funny while playing a part worthy of his talent. None of The Night Before’s characters are quite as grumpy and unfeeling as A Christmas Carol’s Ebenezer Scrooge, but they are all motivated by their own selfish concerns.

Chris wants to impress his football teammates by providing them with mass quantities of weed (of a strain aptly named the “ghost of Christmas present”). And Isaac — whose wife, Betsy (Jillian Bell), has presented him with a box full of “every drug on Earth,” as a reward for him being her “Dwayne Johnson” during her pregnancy — mostly wants to find his phone while consuming as many mind-altering substances as possible. But eventually they realize that the only way they’ll get any satisfaction is to put each other first — and Ethan, who’s been feeling useless and cut off from his friends, has a George Bailey–esque moment of realization that he means as much to them as they do to him.

It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. … I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy?” Never mind that she also said that 98 percent of the movie-making process was a joy; fans of the comedy couldn’t get over her supposed ungratefulness and accused her of being the kind of humorless complainer she deemed her character to be. Ethan’s euphoric high immediately collapses into a crushing low, and he’s forced to realize that even the shiniest of presents or the most debaucherous of tinsel-decked affairs won’t make everything perfect.

Luckily, the pain is temporary and even leads to some good; Ralphie ends up with a fond memory of his “best Christmas present ever,” while Ethan uses his failure as a catalyst to change his life permanently for the better. Ethan and Elf’s Buddy the Elf could probably find some things to talk about: Both orphans, they grow up in atypical”families” who continue to accept them even after they stop fitting in so well.

But while Buddy decides of his own volition that it’s time for him to leave the North Pole, Ethan is being made to end his stasis by his friends’ progressing lives. Aside from Toussaint’s memorable turn, Mindy Kaling makes an appearance, playing a sex-positive acquaintance of Ethan’s, and a woman who isn’t afraid to make a scene when a guy gets a nosebleed into her cocktail. (That’s as gross as it sounds, by the way.) There’s also Ilana Glazer as a self-proclaimed grinch, who sleeps with Chris just so she can steal his weed stash.

As tearjerking and emotionally manipulative as the movie may be, it’s still beautifully poignant thanks to the huge range of relationships it explores. Unlike most rom-coms, it doesn’t treat a budding heterosexual relationship between an impossibly attractive man and an equally attractive woman as the end-all, be-all of human interaction. Instead, it understands humanity’s reliance on meaningful connections — between mothers and children, between husbands and wives, between women and pop music, and, yes, between friends.

When he runs into her at a karaoke bar and notices that they’re standing under mistletoe, he points to the ceiling suggestively, but she isn’t having it. “Come on, man,” she says before walking away. Call it penance for the “you know how I know you’re gay?” bit in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Whatever the reason, Rogen’s characters have graduated from homophobic taunts to bi-curiousness. In one of the movie’s most hilarious scenes, Isaac accidentally swaps phones with a female acquaintance, so when he starts receiving text-messaged images of a well-endowed man’s impressive goods, he thinks the missives are meant for him.

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