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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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June 16, 2024

‘The Night Before’ falls short

The+Night+Before+Review
Photo by Via CREATIVE COMMONS
The Night Before Review

Holiday films are difficult to execute. Different cultures expect different values to be displayed, and if the film doesn’t hit the mark, it gets forgotten relatively easily. These films aim to achieve cult status and become part of the holiday canon, but because much of their identity is dependent on the season, bad holiday films can end up feeling soulless. Unfortunately, such is the case for “The Night Before.”
“The Night Before” stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie as a group of old high school friends as they reunite for one last Christmas bash. While the film gives its characters roughly equal screen time, Gordon-Levitt’s character, Ethan, is ultimately the protagonist of the film, as it is his tragedy that brings the trio together.
Teenage Ethan lost his parents in a car accident around Christmas, so his friends promised they would be his “new family” and help him celebrate Christmas every year. Of course, fast forward a few decades, and the three are having difficulty maintaining their tradition in the face of adulthood.
Fans of Seth Rogen’s work will recognize this set-up. It’s a coming-of-age story about friends, family and the work of keeping a healthy balance between the two. It’s also an often-unfunny and underdeveloped retread of the last decade of Rogen — and crew’s — career. From “Superbad” to “Knocked Up” to “This is the End,” the theme of friendship under stress has grown weary, especially when nothing new is added to the formula.
Perhaps the film’s closest analogy is “50/50” (2011), another dramedy from director Jonathan Levine that featured both Rogen and Gordon-Levitt. Undeniably a more successful film, “50/50” grounded its characters in realism that limited how goofy their antics could become. This film, while still attempting to bite off some of that heartfelt emotion, has no grounding for its characters, which leads to some painfully unfunny moments that juxtapose terribly with the film’s dramatics. Rogen drips “cocaine blood” into a friend’s drink, hijacks a horse-drawn carriage, and none of it comes off as funny.
While the lead characters and their arcs aren’t compelling enough to buoy the film to decency, the film’s side characters and cameos are easily its highlight. Michael Shannon delivers a show-stealing performance anytime he’s on screen as drug-dealer “Mr. Green,” and a third act appearance by James Franco reminds audiences why he and Seth Rogen have the best bromance in Hollywood.
Ultimately, the film’s story is little more than a joke delivery system, and the jokes it tries to deliver don’t always hit. It certainly won’t make any “best-of” lists, and its admission to the holiday canon is unlikely, but fans of Rogen’s previous work might find something to enjoy in “The Night Before.”
Mason Morgan is an English senior and a Life & Arts writer for The Battalion.

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