Brian’s Exploratory Christmas Endeavor 2016: 1/25
Last year my goal was to watch at least one Christmas movie or special per day for the entirety of December leading up to Christmas, and I did. It tired me out. But I’ve had a year to rest and I’m going in for Round 2. It nearly slipped my mind since a combination of Ohio’s unpredictable weather and, ya know, climate change, make each December less wintery than the one which preceded it. We’ve gotten to mostly cold weather here at the Dayton Upstairs Recording Studio, but so far not a single fleck of snowfall.
Yesterday I looked at The Night Before, the 2015 comedy directed by Jonathan Levine, a man I’ve never heard of before. It stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie as a band of friends who annually reunite for Christmas shenanigans in a tradition born of Gordon-Levitt’s character’s parents dying years before.
It’s just what you have come to expect from a Rogen-based comedy. There is realistic dialog, a fair number of belly laughs, lots of drugs, and just enough gross-out humor. The film also prominently features Jillian Bell (of Workaholics fame, and whom I just love to bits), Mindy Kaling, Michael Shannon, Ilana Glazer, Lizzy Caplan, and is narrated by Tracy Morgan.
As ever with Rogen-y flicks, it’s nothing special to look at, but does feature just enough inspired shots to remind the viewer that these films aren’t cynical, slapdash money grabs, but they aren’t arthouse fodder either and never have been. Also as ever with this type of film, the comedy (however funny you think it is), ultimately gives way to a late-game bit of light drama in the form of characters coming to terms with their real feelings (about an upcoming baby, a bound-to-be-short-lived sports career, and intimacy issues in this case) and these moments, as usual, really work for me. I find them very genuine and touching.
All told, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Anymore I’m always pleasantly surprised by these kinds of movies because I, as much as anyone, see a new film starring an ensemble of familiar Rogen-centric actors with drugs and swear words and think, “yeah, I’ve seen this before,” before putting off viewing it for a year or so. But as was the case with The Interview, 21 Jump Street, and This Is The End, I was again, pleasantly surprised and very glad I watched it.
This isn’t a genius film, but it’s perfectly enjoyable, and I think even Adam would find it at least a little worthwhile if anyone could ever get him to sit down and watch it (they wouldn’t, though).
I’m giving it ★★★☆☆
No riding crops on the Cinema Sadism Pain Index, and six bags of drugs out of ten, and a final score of: