Three Wise Men, One Wild Christmas
Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Isaac (Seth Rogen) are three friends who are about to spend their last Christmas Eve together. After the unfortunate passing of Ethan’s parents at Christmas when he was younger, Chris and Isaac attempt to cheer him up by taking him out for the night. This night out started an annual tradition of spending Christmas together, getting drunk and going to parties on Christmas Eve. However as they have all gotten older, the night out is becoming tiresome, Isaac is expecting his first child, Chris is a American Football player who has hit the big time and Ethan is stuck in a rut in his life, not knowing what to do and unable to commit. Due to their increasing responsibilities in life they decide that this night will be the last one together and they plan to make the most of it.
Jonathan Levine, a director to keep an eye on and the man behind of the ace film 50/50, is back with this Christmas comedy about a three way bromance and growing up. If you like your comedies laden with drugs, swearing and sexting then this is the Christmas film for you this year. The film opens with Tracy Morgan narrating the origins of the annual ritual that the 3 guys take part in, using amusing rhyme no less. It follows this by showing you where the three characters now find themselves in life, before they reunite once again for Christmas Eve. Despite Isaac and Chris believing that they are only doing this for Ethan’s sake, the fact is they both have their own issues. Isaac is suppressing his fear of becoming a father for the first time, and Chris is using steroids to enhance his career in sports, and though Ethan doesn’t want things to change they are all in need of each other, more than they know.
In the lead up to the night out Ethan discovers something that will make this night the most special of their lives. Many moons ago they heard about an amazing Christmas party called The Nutcracker Ball, but despite their best efforts they could never find it. In a Christmas miracle, this year Ethan comes across three tickets to the mysterious party and shares the news with his friends. However unknown to the guys the journey to the party will be littered with obstacles, truths and plenty of drugs. When it comes to the drugs, it is only Isaac indulging in them, after his partner gifts him a box of narcotics to thank him for being so supportive during the pregnancy. This opportunity allows Seth Rogen to go nuts with his comedy acting as he consumes mushrooms, cocaine, and weed amongst other pills. We’ve all seen Rogen take drugs of some form or another in many of his films but he gets to turn it up to 11 here with his trips. Unsurprisingly it is his erratic and under the influence behaviour that yields the best results when it comes to comedy, an incident involving a wrong phone, sexting and inner monologue provides some of the biggest laughs.
With the comedy angle fronted by Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the focus of the drama with his emotional back story of loss, and Mackie following closely with fame changing his personality. It’s an understandable move because of his acting abilities and how good he was in Levine’s 50/50 but Rogen has demonstrated a flair for drama that was unfortunately underutilised here. The trio start the night together as per the annual ritual, visiting the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre, going to the toy store to play on the big step piano, and hitting the karaoke bar for their rendition of Run D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis. But despite starting the night together they wind up parting on the way to the Nutcracker Ball as they start to come to terms with the state of play of their lives. At this point the comedy begins to recede, unless Rogen is getting high on screen of course. However when the comedy takes a back seat is when the home truths come out and anybody of a similar age to the boys in the film will find it hard not to sympathise or relate to some of the things they are going through. “It’s harder to stay friends with people when you’re older” is a line that will stick with plenty of people no matter your age.
With the subject matter and themes that decorate the characters lives it is clear that this film has a heart, and in true Christmas spirit tackles these head on, albeit with a powdery nose. To be honest all the of rude and crude behaviour makes a refreshing change to your typical Christmas film that usually features families feuding and making up. It’s also a Christmas film that focuses on friends instead of family and you don’t get many of those. As refreshing as this turn is, it is most certainly an adult film and I wouldn’t recommend sitting down with the grandparents to watch it over the festive period, though you couldn’t go wrong watching it with your friends and a few beers. The Night Before is most certainly worth a watch, I laughed, I smiled and I appreciated the relationship (and troubles) between friends. It might be a little unrefined but it is still a good comedy and a very good Christmas film.