By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

My biggest complaint with Love the Coopers had to do with how formulaic it really is.  I also get somewhat annoyed with how wholesome holiday movies often are.  I do realize that holiday films usually have the goal of appealing to the entire family, and that’s fine. However, when it comes to comedy I find it more exciting when a film subverts conventions.  The Night Before does just that.  Unlike most holiday fare, The Night Before wears its adult-oriented humor boldly and proudly, but still has some genuinely heartfelt moments.  The movie obviously won’t appeal to all audiences, but I respect it more than a film that tries too hard to do so.

Fourteen years ago on Christmas Eve, Ethan had the worst holiday season ever when his beloved parents were killed in an automobile accident.  Ever since then, his buddies Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have made it a point to help him celebrate the season annually.  Facing the responsibilities of adulthood, the three friends have decided to put that tradition to bed.  When Ethan, Isaac, and Chris have an opportunity to attend the best party NYC has to offer, the trio plans to give their tradition a proper send off.  Things don’t go quite as they plan, and the bonds of their friendship get put to the test as the men must face some ghosts of their past and the fears of an uncertain future.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine who co-wrote with Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Evan Goldberg, The Night Before is a hilarious, wild ride of a holiday movie.  Intelligently written with razor-sharp wit, this film had me laughing, often to the point of tears.  Levine and his writers take a familiar Christmas movie formula and they lampoon it and celebrate it beautifully.  The filmmakers boldly take on some of the religious conventions of the holiday, and this will likely ruffle some feathers; however, I applaud their fearlessness in doing so.  Some of these attempts at shock work on a comedic level, but some of them don’t.  Overall though, the film offers a refreshing and inventive take on holiday films that should hold up for years of multiple, traditional viewings.

The three main characters are highly likable with somewhat relatable problems and issues.  The uber-talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a superb performance as Ethan, while his co-stars Rogen and Mackie masterfully back him up.  Seth Rogen definitely gets to shine here with his comedic chops on wonderful display.  His character gets some of the funniest scenes in the film.  The movie also has a great supporting cast which includes Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling, Tracey Morgan, and Michael Shannon.  Shannon, who stars as Mr. Green, a philosophical sage of a drug dealer, is a definite stand-out in the film.  The man is a mad genius and he is an absolute joy to behold on the screen.

I can probably honestly say the same thing about this movie.  I had such an awesome time laughing heartily and feeling the genuinely poignant emotions when things get a bit more serious.  Unlike Love the Coopers, this movie promises something different and delivers.  As I previously stated, some of the humor may not appeal to some.  In fact it might even offend a little.  The very R-rated The Night Before can be a blast for the whole family, but that whole family should not consist of any children.

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