The Night Before (2015): On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
You're gonna hear me say this a lot throughout the review: The Night Before is fine. It's not great, but it's not bad either. It's fine. If you like the actors involved or the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedies we've been getting for a few years now, you'll like this, but if not.....you have no reason to see this. When talking about this film, most people would probably stop there. But then again, I'm not most people, am I? So, let's go into depth on why this film is fine, shall we?
Let's get the elephant out of the room first: where's Rose Byrne in these recent Seth Rogen/James Franco films? She was easily the best part of the last (official) film Rogen and Franco did in 2014's Neighbors, and there was a really obvious role for her here and in the unofficial last film these guys did, (The Interview) but either she wasn't cast for it for some reason or (more likely) didn't want to play it. I mean I still enjoyed watching the still underrated Lizzy Caplan (of Cloverfield acclaim, and I loved everyone in that amazing film) play a big role in The Interview and once again play a major role here as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's romantic interest, but when all I can think as I'm watching this is, "Man, Rose Byrne absolutely killed it in Neighbors...." you know she was brilliant. And missed. Anyway, let's move on to actually talking about this film.
This film is fine. Wait, I said that already, didn't I? I will say it was better than The Interview and just as good as Neighbors, but we are now 2 years removed from 2013's brilliant This is the End, and this crew's recycled formula is starting to get a little stale. But we'll judge this film by itself. So first off, the acting. Seth Rogen is his usual Seth Rogen self, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Anthony Mackie are their usual charismatic selves, and they're funny too. However the man who knocks it out of the park is none of these actors. Michael Shannon is on a freaking roll right now. He just might earn my "coveted" Best Actor of 2015 award in a few months. He was terrifying in 99 Homes (a film which I never got around to reviewing but saw it and absolutely loved it) and now he just destroys it here. This guy has a lot of work lined up for 2016, (just look at his IMDB page) and he has chosen the right time to make it on my "must-watch everything he does" list. Elvis & Nixon is rapidly becoming my most anticipated film of 2016. Get Michael Shannon more work everyone!
As for the rest of the film....well.....there isn't much else to talk about honestly. This film is just lightly edited improv, which is fine, but it definitely leaves much to be desired from a technical standpoint. There were some funny lighting effects that were taken out of the Edgar Wright catalog, but other than that this was a very technically bland film. And that's why it's fine. Because while there were definitely some funny jokes in this film, it made me laugh several times throughout the relatively short 101 minute runtime, Michael Shannon just absolutely destroyed it as Mr. Green, and there are some awesome cameo....there's just not enough else here to make this film truly memorable. I mean it's not like there's a story here or something. Anything resembling a story was pretty ridiculous and predictable, and it wasn't anywhere near engaging enough to make the one supposedly emotional moment of this film feel anything even close to emotional. It's mindless! That's all it is. Mindless humor. Did I laugh? Yes. Was there anything even remotely resembling substance? No. Which makes it a....you guessed it.....fine film. End of story. Bye bye. See ya later.
The Critique: A mindless film, The Night Before is a decent installment into the lackluster genre that is the modern American comedy.
The Recommendation: Definitely worth a watch if you like any of these actors + James Franco. If not, stay very far away.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 It's fine.