The Night Before  is written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) and stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie as three best friends on Christmas Eve that spend the night in New York City searching for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
Rogen at his funniest. One of the best things about Seth Rogen (and his crew) is the chemistry he has with his fellow actors. You can clearly tell that they’re all good friends that enjoy being around and riffing with each other. As always, I’m sure a majority of the lines and situations in the film are ad-libbed and it makes for a really energetic pacing style. Rogen himself (beyond the usual wonderful chemistry) does something a little different here. For most of the film, he’s running around New York completely high and it’s pretty hysterical. Without spoiling anything, there is a scene involving a dinner table conversation with a phone that is absolutely ridiculous, yet Rogen nails the timing and makes the scene work. Levitt and Mackie are playing the straight men here and play off of Rogen extremely well.
Bizarrely sentimental. Jonathan Levine has made two pretty impressive films in the past that completely understood their tones, yet The Night Before doesn’t- not one bit. The Night Before is first and foremost, a broad stoner comedy. However, the film on more than one instance tries to make us feel things by shoving an unnecessary subplot about family down our throats that really never works. It doesn’t make us tear up, instead, it makes us cringe.
Structurally a mess. One of the biggest missteps that The Night Before makes is how absolutely convoluted it’s plotting is. The film’s story isn’t really a tightly wound story, and since the film never set out to have one (it’s more of just a vehicle for jokes) I’m not going to crap on it, but the film’s story is so poorly thought out that I can’t help but go ahead and do so. The characters never really learn anything by the end of the film and there isn’t a single defining arc anywhere to be seen, which is essential for a film (or any film) like this to have. Especially when this film, in particular, is pandering to every Christmas movie we’ve grown up to love that do have those arcs and messages in them. This is a feel good Christmas movie after all.
Just not quite up there. Overall, The Night Before just isn’t as great as Rogen’s other more recent outings (yes, not even The Interview). While films like This is the End and Neighbors have prevailed when it comes to unscripted narratives, The Night Before does not. Instead, it ends up coming off as incoherent and just really sloppy.