Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie in The Night Before (Columbia Pictures)
Three friends spend one last Christmas Eve together before heading off in different directions and discover through the spirit of the holidays how to find themselves at the greatest Christmas party in NYC. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie, this feel-good movie of the season is the greatest holiday movie of the last 10 years, joining the ranks of Christmas Vacation, Home Alone and Elf.
Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) have spent every Christmas with their close friend Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) ever since he lost his family in a tragic accident. Together the three have created their own friendsmas tradition, which involves making a trip to iconic Christmas locations from movies (the Rockefeller Center tree, F.A.O. Schwarz), getting wasted at the only karaoke bar open in New York and trying to find the most exclusive but elusive party in NYC: the Nutcracka Ball. However, years have passed, and Chris is getting busy with fame as an athlete while Isaac is getting ready to start a family with his wife, leaving Ethan at a crossroads where he has to grapple with the loss of his second family.
At its core, this comedy from the minds that brought you This is the End and Neighbors, is a very meta take on the classic conventions of Christmas movies while being one through and through. The story of The Night Before is self aware in the sense that, like in real life, the characters refer to movies in how they live their lives. There are moments in it that are pop culturally relatable like when the guys play with the giant keyboard in the toy store and perform Kanye West’s “Runaway” track.
While it’s a snapshot of our times, The Night Before will hold up because it’s rooted in a very honest place like the great Christmas movies before it. Each one of the characters faces their past, present and future in ways that audiences will identify with. Whether you’re scared of parenthood or need to value the real friends you have, even if that means letting go of them in a sense. Yes, there is raunchiness, debauchery and crazy gags, but never for a moment does it lose its heart. Mackie, JGL and Rogen have amazing chemistry as friends and pull off the fun and ridiculous aspects of the film that will have you laughing with tears in your eyes when you’re not crying over the sentimental moments. Also Michael Shannon just about steals the show as Mr. Green, and so does Tracy Morgan as the Narrator/Santa.
Like all Christmas tales, The Night Before examines how, even as adults, we have to work hard to cherish our loved ones and continue to make an effort to create more memories – even if they’re crazy, drunken, crossfaded ones. See this with new and old friends, use it as an excuse to reconnect and make traditions of your own.
The Night Before
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment
In theaters Nov. 20
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