The Night Before is the Christmas comedy that needs to be on your annual holiday watch list. Read our Third Thursday Throwback review of the 2015 movie below.
Welcome to Subjectify Media’s Third Thursday Throwbacks. This monthly column offers our team an amnesty on the trappings of time and allow us to review a property from the past. It may be a movie, TV show, book or even an album – but on the third Thursday of each month, you can expect to see at least one review here that will cover something that is by no means current, but is still worth talking about.
Third Thursday Throwbacks might include popular older titles or completely obscure properties, and they might either be a first-watch new experience of an older piece of work featuring someone who has currently captured the public’s attention (or at least the attention of one of our writers) or they might be a reflection on a tried and tested favorite that still holds up. There will probably be a timely and relevant reason for the choice of throwback review, and if we cannot find it, we will create it. But what is the internet for, if not to constantly discover and rediscover the wealth of stories out there waiting?
Given that it’s December, we had to get at least one holiday throwback in, so without further ado, Subjectify throws back to review what this author repeatedly calls “the greatest Christmas movie of all time,” as the Subjectify team Slack channel can attest to.
‘The Night Before’ movie review
If you’re like me, your annual holiday movie roster has been set for quite some time. Of course, there are the classics, like Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Santa Clause, and the truly classic It’s a Wonderful Life. In the early 2000s your list may have expanded to include the likes of Elf, Jim Carrey’s The Grinch, and The Holiday. And maybe a few of the many yearly Hallmark Christmas movies even make it onto your rewatch list. But for many people, it’s been a long time since a new Christmas movie became an annual must-watch.
For me, that merry monotony was completely shattered when The Night Before, starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie was released in 2015. I walked into the theater expecting to see a run-of-the-mill Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced comedy, but what I got was so much more than that. What I got was one of the merriest Christmas movies of all time.
Full disclosure, I’m a pretty big fan of the aforementioned “run-of-the-mill Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced comedy.” Although they’ve certainly had some misses, when I saw that these two were involved with producing, acting, and writing credits split between them, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t be disappointed. What I could not have known is how thoroughly not disappointed, and utterly delighted I would be through the entire experience.
The Night Before wasn’t just laugh-out-loud funny. And oh boy, was it ever that. But it was also so incredibly heartfelt. It just *got* the magic of Christmas in the most wonderful way, and also in a way that’s specific for adults. Christmas can be just as magical for adults as it is for children, but it is different, and The Night Before absolutely nailed that spirit.
The movie follows Isaac (Rogen), Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), and Chris (Mackie), as they engage in one final Christmas Eve of debauchery before they fully embrace their adult lives. The tradition was born years ago when Ethan’s parents tragically died near Christmas. His two best friends stepped in as the family they already were and brought a little Christmas spirit back to Ethan, packing as much fun into Christmas Eve as possible.
This fun involves putting on a Grammy worthy performance at a toy store with an epic Run DMC encore at karaoke, a little silver and GoldenEye, the abuse of countless substances, and the seemingly impossible dream of one day attending the famed “Nutcracker Ball,” a Christmas miracle in party form where basically whatever you want flows freely.
With Isaac’s baby on the way and Chris’s football career mysteriously taking off in his mid-30s, the gang embarks on their last hurrah in The Night Before. Miraculously, Ethan
stumbles upon steals tickets to the mythical event just in time for their last Christmas Eve. Everything goes incredibly smoothly, and they have an amazing time. Just kidding. Chaos ensues!
The Night Before works on so many levels. It does one of the best jobs I’ve seen of capturing the weirdness of evolving friendships through different stages of life, especially when everyone is evolving at vastly different rates. Even more impressively, it does it with a male friendship, which rarely gets this kind of treatment. The friendship between the three leads is the beating heart of the movie.
The individual journey of each character is explored through a cool version of a retelling of A Christmas Carol that’s an important throughline without consuming the entire story. Of course, because this is a Seth Rogen movie, the combined ghost of Christmas past, present, and future is their drug dealer (Michael Shannon), who provides some of the most profound and heartwarming moments in The Night Before.
The Night Before also functions incredibly well as a rom-com worthy of the early 2000s, but woke enough to thrive in the late 2010s. You’ll find yourself incredibly invested in both the stunningly adorable marriage between Isaac and Betsy (Jillian Bell) and the flirtatious on-and-off saga of Ethan and Diana (Lizzy Caplan). You’ll probably even find yourself adamantly fighting for a side in the accidental love triangle between Isaac, James (Franco), and Sarah (Mindy Kaling).
The love stories are also heavily set around evolving from youth to adulthood, adding to the overall theme of the movie in a great way. Each couple has incredible chemistry and the way that The Night Before fails to reward the grand romantic gesture is one of the best things I’ve seen in a rom-com in a long time.
As a Christmas movie, The Night Before holds its own while paying homage to some of the greats that came before it. You’ll find subtle, and not-so-subtle nods to Die Hard, Home Alone, The Grinch, and obviously, The Night Before Christmas. These tips of the santa hat only serve to increase the jolly factor of the movie, which it was already off the charts for.
Above all, The Night Before is just really freaking funny. While I fully believe comedies are better when they have some heart and depth to them, the laughs are still the most important part at the end of the day. The Night Before puts laughter first, and I promise you will be gasping for air during at least one scene in this movie, but probably many more.
In my opinion, this is the funniest Seth Rogen has ever been in a movie. His facial expressions alone kill me, time and time again. Whether he’s having a heart-to-heart with a nativity scene, calling his unborn baby incredibly rude names, or searching desperately for a barf bag in a catholic church while wearing a Star of David sweater, he understood the assignment and executed with absolute perfection.
The more grounded humor of Chris and Ethan act as the perfect counter to Isaac’s eccentricity, rounding out the comedic profile so that there’s truly a laugh to be had for everyone. Some of the movie’s best giggles come from supporting characters like Rebecca Grinch (Ilana Glazer), the limo driver (Nathan Fielder), and even Miley Cyrus!
The thing that makes The Night Before so great is that it has struck the perfect balance between adult comedy and Christmas cheer. I usually find R rated Christmas movies so cringey to watch, because they often seem to prioritize edgy elements over the heartfelt ones that, in my opinion, are essential to the feeling of Christmas. Many of these movies become so raunchy and controversial in an attempt to subvert expectations that they just become confusing or uncomfortable.
Somehow, even though Isaac does “every drug” and Chris has a wild bathroom sex montage, The Night Before maintains a unique sense of purity and wholesomeness that can’t even be tainted by a barrage of James Franco’s dick pics.
With all of that said, I hope you can understand why The Night Before is now the only movie that I absolutely need to watch every Christmas. I no longer say “it’s almost Christmas time.” It’s now “almost The Night Before time. This movie is literally synonymous with Christmas for me.
Its viewing marks the kick-off of the festivities, and I legitimately get excited months in advance knowing that it’s coming. If I’m being honest, there have definitely been one or two Julys where I’ve popped it in early for a little dose of Christmas spirit.
If you’re looking to laugh (and maybe even cry a little) this holiday season, The Night Before is the movie you need to add to your list. You won’t be disappointed if you do!