The Night Before is a Christmas film getting a Blu-ray and DVD release just as spring is attempting to… er… spring. But that’s better than studios waiting a whole year to put such a film out to buy.
Ethan’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents both died just before Christmas Day, 2001, so every year, he, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gone out and got drunk, got high, then got drunk some more. However, everyone has to grow up and now it’s Christmas Eve 2015 and Ethan’s friends are too busy for him due to their careers and families… until he stumbles upon tickets to the seemingly mythical Nutcracker Ball – the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties.
Lawyer Isaac has been given a stash of narcotics by his wife, Betsy (Jillian Bell), while successful – through doping – football jock Chris pointlessly spends half his screentime trying to find some weed, even though Isaac has got a lot better stuff in his possession. I could argue why would a wife about to give birth would suddenly allow her husband to take “every drug in the world”, but that’s to apply logic where none is present.
For some reason, James Franco plays himself in front of Seth Rogen’s character, even though they know each other well and worked together in The Interview (in fact, that film’s Lizzy Caplan and Randall Park also show up here). And Miley Cyrus has a pointless cameo… but thankfully, as she sings Wrecking Ball, this time she keeps her clothes on.
There’s a way to do gross-out comedy and have it still be funny, yet seeing Seth Rogen being about to throw up in a church… and then throwing up in a church is not funny. In fact, there’s enough here for an amusing trailer, but nothing beyond that. And you have Mr Green (Michael Shannon) sussed out long before the film tells you. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen worked together far better in 50/50, also directed by Jonathan Levine, but unsurprisingly from a different writer.
Oh, and it gets all syrupy sweet about 20 minutes before the end, effectively turning into Three Men And A Baby.
The Night Before features big plugs for Red Bull (I drink Tesco’s Blue Spark), Sony’s Xperia phones, and an attempt to recreate the floor piano scene from Big, yet the feet never seem to get shown with the rest of those dancing on it, so it doesn’t work anywhere near as well. And as it goes on beyond the first 30 minutes, it just repeats the same drugs and drinking and then meanders along, offering nothing new.
This is a night out you’ll want to go home early from.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and you’d be surprised if it was not a top-notch transfer for a brand new film. I watched this on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and while it’s not a special FX movie, the characters frequent a lot of bars and clubs, so that fills the speakers. However, there’s nothing I can recall that’ll trouble your split-surround speakers, except the occasional drug-induced moment.
The extras are as follows. It looks like a lot, but they’re mostly very short pieces so there’s just under an hour’s worth of extras in total, except for the audio descriptive track:
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (8:00): Just 4, here. Nothing that needs to go back in.
- Gag Reel (1:00): At one minute long, this is a very short reel. Given the people involved in this film, if this was the only time the cast ‘corpsed’, then James’ dick pic was sent from my phone(!)
- Christmas in the Summer (5:35): As you might expect, a lot of the filming for this took place during the summer, just like all those TV Christmas specials where they pretend to be full of the Christmas spirit, yet the weather is meant to be considerably better than at the end of the year. This featurette follows the standard practice of mixing in clips amongst chat from the cast and crew.
- The Spirit of Christmas (3:23): The cast and crew talk about what Christmas means to them, which isn’t always much.
- Drunkest Santas on the Block (4:27): The two Jasons – Jason Mantzoukas and Jason Jones – talk about playing the angry, drunk Santas. I’d had enough of them in the film and didn’t need to see them again.
- Midnight Mass with Nana (4:03): Behind-the-scenes at the church set. Well, it’s a church, too.
- Whale Juice (3:11): Outtakes from the strip club scene.
- Mr Green O-Rama (3:59): A piece about Mr Green, surprisingly.
- Making one epic party (20:22): A longer making-of segment.
- Previews (2:36): Or rather, “preview”. There’s a single trailer for The Wedding Ringer, starring the eternally unfunny Kevin Hart.
- Audio descriptive track: Does what it says on the tin.
The main menu has had so little thought put into it – just a static image of the three leads doing karaoke, set against a short piece of music I don’t recall hearing in the film, so it’s like whoever made the menu had no access to any content from the film. Very bizarre.
There are subtitles and languages in a fair few apiece, all listed at the bottom of the review. Chapters are slightly more than the usual amount you get on most discs. There are 16, whereas a lot of distributors skimp on a mere 12.
Also, Sony have done what Lionsgate did to The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2, where the disc has some sort of weird menu system which means that the D-pad buttons on my PS4 can’t control the rewinding and fast-forwarding of Blu-rays. They’re not the only studios, but there’s still only a handful that do it. Why is this??
Running time: 101 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: March 28th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (all languages), DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French, Italian
Subtitles: English, Arabic, French, Hindi, Italian, Polish
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic J-D-C Scope, Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Jonathan Levine
Producers: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and James Weaver
Screenplay: Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir and Evan Goldberg (based on a story by Jonathan Levine)
Music: Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins
Ethan: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Isaac: Seth Rogen
Chris: Anthony Mackie
Betsy: Jillian Bell
Diana: Lizzy Caplan
Cindy: Helene Yorke
Mr. Green: Michael Shannon
Sarah: Mindy Kaling
Rebecca Grinch: Ilana Glazer
Tommy Owens: Aaron Hill
Narrator/Santa: Tracy Morgan
Nana: Darrie Lawrence
Joshua: Nathan Fielder
James Franco: James Franco
Miley Cyrus: Miley Cyrus
Kamal: Kamal Angelo Bolden
Baron Davis: Baron Davis
Mrs. Roberts: Lorraine Toussaint
Piano Playing Uncle: Chuck Muckle
Cindy’s Husband: Curt Bouril
Cindy’s Daughter: Brooke Liddell
Cindy’s Daughter: Kiley Liddell
Bad Santa #1: Jason Mantzoukas
Bad Santa #2: Jason Jones
Deli Owner: Clem Cheung
Opera Singer: Harolyn Blackwell
Boss: Randall Park
Coat Check Girl: Natalie Knepp
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.