Magazine article Screen International

The Night Before': Review

Magazine article Screen International

The Night Before': Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Jonathan Levine. US. 2015. 100mins

A would-be Christmas blowout for three childhood friends on the cusp of growing up (and growing apart) doesn't lead to much comedic combustion in The Night Before, a so-so stoner film where the premise is almost always better than the execution.

A who's-who of likeable actors tries to produce an anarchic spark - particularly, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie - but the latest from director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) proves to be neither poignant nor hilarious enough. The drugs the main characters ingest don't seem to do much good for them, but they might help enhance underwhelmed viewers' experience.

Opening November 20 in the US, this Sony offering will hope to capitalise on its leads' box-office appeal, especially Rogen's connection to recent comic hits Neighbors and This Is The End. The Night Before also features several up-and-coming talents like television stars Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer and Nathan Fielder, which could boost the film's cool cachet. With the Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, The Night Before is aiming to make the season bright with its yuletide-timed laughs, and even if reviews aren't stellar, the fact that this is the only big comedy in the marketplace for a few weeks will be a commercial godsend.

For a decade, best friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have spent Christmas Eve together, a tradition that began as a way to cheer up Ethan after the death of his parents in a car accident. But with married man Isaac about to become a father and pro athlete Chris enjoying belated fame in the NFL, the buddies realise they're getting too busy to continue this ritual - although emotionally stunted Ethan seems to be sleepwalking through his life, recently ending a relationship with Diana (Lizzy Caplan) because he was afraid of commitment.

The Night Before chronicles the final Christmas Eve shared by the trio, and Levine, who co-wrote the screenplay and came up with the original story, fills the night with the type of sex-and-drugs humour that have been a staple of Rogen's films. (The actor's frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, who co-directed The Interview and This Is The End with Rogen, is another credited writer on The Night Before.) But where Rogen's best earlier films found a sweet spot between raucousness and sentiment, The Night Before is too scattershot in either regard to really connect.

One of the movie's crucial failings is that none of the three pals is particularly interesting or funny. …

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