The Night Before’ neglects comedy in favor of character arc

The Night Before
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two stars

The Night Before Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie. Directed by Jonathan Levine. Rated R. Opens Friday.

In the grand tradition of the killer-Santa horror-slasher, the Naughty Christmas Comedy is a way of flirting with the dark side to help illustrate the Nice. Jonathan Levine’s The Night Before is cut from the same mold as 2011’s A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, with characters getting into trouble and testing their friendship on Christmas Eve in the Big City. But somehow the new movie can’t manage the same balancing act of surprising comedy and a sober center; it’s too focused on laying out and wrapping up the three main character arcs. Isaac (Seth Rogen) isn’t ready to be a dad, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) isn’t ready to commit to a relationship, and football star Chris (Anthony Mackie) has let fame go to his head. Still, their onscreen bond is strong, they complement each other well, and they seem to genuinely love each other and love Christmas. Consider it a stocking stuffer.

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