"THERE'S SUCH A THING as trying too hard, and with The Night Before I thought what would be cooler than just showing up and being with my friends, making each other laugh and having a blast, which is exactly what that movie is." Thus spake Joseph Gordon-Levitt in September's Playboy, and that's as good a quote for the movie's poster as any: Nobody in The Night Before tries too hard, and the movie mostly does consist of Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie having a blast. Those two facts alone make it a welcome break from November's usual batch of self-satisfied, self-serious Oscar bait, and that's not even taking into account the important facts that The Night Before is narrated by Tracy Morgan, or that it makes excellent use of Kanye West's "Runaway," Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," and, most importantly, Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis."
A reunion of sorts with Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and director Jonathan Levine—who last teamed up for the decidedly less goofy 50/50—The Night Before giddily borrows from Dickens, Cheech, and Chong; the plot, such as it is, consists of three dumbasses running around New York on Christmas Eve and doing "every drug in the whole world." Along for the ride are Mindy Kaling, Lizzy Caplan, Broad City's Ilana Glazer, and the entirely delightful Jillian Bell—not to mention Michael Shannon, who, in his turn as the boys' mystifying pot dealer Mr. Green, offers the finest performance of his career.
Mr. Green would doubtless advise you to get stoned out of your fucking mind before seeing The Night Before, and that's probably good advice, but be warned: The Night Before has a few legitimately sad, legitimately sweet moments. Right alongside all the drugs and musical numbers (and JoGoLev dressed up as an adorable elf) is a subtly melancholy heart. ("It's harder to stay friends with people when you're older," one of the boys says, a statement as true as it is rare.) Indeed, The Night Before might be the only Christmas movie that offers both a whole lot of dick pics and the sad, lonely sense of desperation that defines the holidays. But then Seth Rogen throws up all over a midnight mass, and all is right with the world.