THE NIGHT BEFORE
Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: D-
Director:  Jonathan Levine
Written by:  Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Shannon, Mindy Kaling,
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 11/16/15
Opens:  November 20, 2015

Some folks may sing “Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine,” but in the case of the three friends highlighted in “The Night Before,” a tradition of debauchery that they have celebrated every Christmas Eve for fourteen years is coming to an end because…Come to think of it, why should these pals break up?  After all, one of them, Isaac (Seth Rogen), has been married to Betsy (Jillian Bell) and is about to become a father, which in itself is no excuse for ending his friendships.  Chris (Anthony Mackie) is a famous athlete, but so what?  We’re talking only one night a year.  And as though Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) needs an excuse for quitting his fantastic Christmas Eves, he has his eyes on Diana (Lizzy Caplan), the woman who broke up with him and with whom he had no spoken for three months because he was afraid to meet her parents.  Yes, it’s the holiest night of the year for most Americans, but for the three young men who seem long-in-tooth for us to consider this a coming-of-age story, heading off to the Holy Grail of Christmas parties, the Nutcracka for some late hours of drugs and dance is considered more important than attending Midnight Mass or putting final fixings on Christmas trees.

Ironically, the most overtly Jewish member of the group, Isaac, is the only pal who does go to Midnight Mass, though he wishes he had night, and so do the members of the congregation who fill every pew in the church.  Loaded with weed, cocaine and a variety of other mind-altering substances, he enters the church while wearing a sweater chock full of stars of David, a fish out of water who had never been to a Christian service before in his life.  Zonked out of his mind, he heads for the aisle, throws up on the floor, and exits rapidly from the church saying “We did not kill Jesus.”  Funny?  If you think so, this may be the movie for you.  Vulgar?  Strangely enough, the movie is not so much so, which makes one wonder, Where is Judd Apatow when we need him?

The problem with “The Night Before,” co-written and directed by Jonathan Levine, whose “Warm Bodies” features a zombie who saves a still-living girl from an attack, is that’s its entertainment value is close to zero.  It is a laugh-free, only mildly vulgar, and virtually plot-free film, taking place in Manhattan during a long, long night and involving a surprisingly unfunny Michael Shannon, so great in “99 Homes,” one of the best films of 2015, serving as a drug dealer who is so zonked out himself that we wonder how he can keep his account books accurate.

With a small role by James Franco, “The Night Before” may be about the search for the Holy Grail of parties, but the movie itself, the worst of the year to date, has a good chance to win the Golden Raspberry, the Holy Grain of trash celluloid.

Rated R.  101 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – F
Acting – C
Technical – B
Overall – D-

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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