“The Night Before” brings a new kind of Christmas cheer

This season’s best bet for a holiday classic


Sarah Shatz

L-r, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie star Columbia Pictures’ “The Night Before.”

Maggie Curran, Opinion Editor

A holiday comedy, done right, is one of the best parts about Christmastime. As a kid, this meant watching “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” and laughing at Cindy Lou Who’s ridiculous hair. But now, the term begs for a more sophisticated definition, and by sophisticated, I mean a movie with characters that swear, do drugs, get drunk and vomit at midnight mass. I mean “The Night Before.”

Easily the least tame of the bunch, “The Night Before” joins the ranks of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Elf,” and others in the Christmas comedy genre as a good example of when “funny” and “holiday” go hand in hand. The catch is that while the rest of these films are “fun for the whole family,” this movie’s R rating is a definite sign you should not bring your younger cousin to see it, or grandma for that matter.

It’s a simple enough concept: take your stereotypical Seth Rogen movie— complete with drugs, alcohol, nudity and swearing—and set it on Christmas Eve. Rogen plays Isaac, who, with best friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), has spent the past 15 years partying every Christmas Eve, hoping to find tickets to the exclusive and elite Nutcracka Ball. On the last year of their holiday tradition, the trio get lucky enough to (illegally) find tickets to the ball, where the promise of “every drug ever made” and meeting women is a given. ‘Tis the season I suppose.

Going into the film, I expected this to be a classic “Die Hard” scenario. While half the population defines “Die Hard” as a holiday film, the other half insists that just because the film takes place at Christmastime doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. While the title of “The Night Before” suggested otherwise, I expected the comedy aspect to trump any Christmas themes throughout the film. Honestly, it didn’t seem realistic that a film starring Rogen could have any sort of holiday spirit, and yet, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

While completely unconventional as a holiday film, “The Night Before” uses every opportunity to throw conventional Christmas movie clichés in the audience’s face. The opening scene is of a leather-bound book, pages turning to the sound of Tracy Morgan narrating in rhymes. Whimsical jingle bells and chimes serve as the background music for much of the film, with a few Christmas carol classics thrown in as well. Isaac, Chris and Ethan even spend the majority of the film in tacky holiday sweaters (although Isaac’s is embroidered with the star of David because he’s Jewish).

While the film pokes fun at traditional holiday movies, it simultaneously uses these time-honored themes to further its own corny message about love, friendship and holiday spirit. However, the corniness is actually a welcomed addition since it serves as a sweet take away from an otherwise raunchy 2 hours. It’s the most one can expect from a movie with not one, not two but three drug deals.

In short: if you’re looking for a conventional, heartwarming tale of the triumph of the Christmas spirit, I would stick with “White Christmas.” But if you want a refreshing, contemporary, hilarious take on the Christmas caper classic, put “The Night Before” on your Christmas list.