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The Night Before: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Night Before (2015) movie poster The Night Before

Theatrical Release: November 20, 2015 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Levine / Writers: Jonathan Levine (story & screenplay), Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Ethan Miller), Seth Rogen (Isaac Greenberg), Anthony Mackie (Chris Roberts), Lizzy Caplan (Diana), Jillian Bell (Betsy), Mindy Kaling (Sarah), Michael Shannon (Mr. Green), Lorraine Toussaint (Mrs. Roberts), Randall Park (Boss), Ilana Glazer (Rebecca Grinch), Nathan Fielder (Joshua), Helιne Yorke (Cindy), Aaron Hill (Tommy Owens), Tracy Morgan (Narrator/Santa), Darrie Lawrence (Nana), James Franco (Himself), Miley Cyrus (Herself), Kamal Angelo Bolden (Kamal), Baron Davis (Himself), Jason Mantzoukas (Bad Santa #1), Jason Jones (Bad Santa #2), Clem Cheung (Deli Owner)

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The Night Before is billed as being "From the guys who brought you This Is the End and Neighbors", which is kind of true in a way. Seth Rogen starred in those two hit comedies and also produced both with Evan Goldberg and James Weaver. But unlike them, The Night Before is directed by Jonathan Levine, who also take lone story credit and is one of four credited screenwriters.
This is not Levine's first collaboration with Rogen, but the previous one was 50/50, a cancer dramedy no one would or should describe first and foremost as a Seth Rogen movie.

The Night Before is more along the lines of a Seth Rogen movie, even if he didn't write or direct it. 50/50 lead Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Ethan Miller, who was orphaned as a young man right before Christmas 2001. Ever since then, Christmas Eve has been spent with his new family, best friends since high school Isaac Greenberg (Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie). Their annual tradition has them wearing festive sweaters, getting drunk, and raising a little hell.

Their fifteenth Christmas spent this way is established as their last, the end of an era. Isaac's firstborn child is due any day now. The social media-savvy Chris is experiencing a late-career boom in his professional football career. Only Ethan, who these days can be found working a coat check closet in an elf costume, is not ready to move on from this tradition.

In "The Night Before", three friends (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen) are excited to spend one final Christmas Eve together on the town.

Nonetheless, all three buds are excited to give it one last go. Chris secures a Red Bull stretch limo from a new promotional deal. Isaac has a small box of drugs gifted to him by his very pregnant wife (Jillian Bell). And Ethan gets the biggest perk of all: three (stolen) tickets to the Nutcracker Ball, the top-secret annual bash they have been trying to get into since 2008.

The night unfolds with a karaoke performance of Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis", a few encounters with their high school drug dealer Mr. Green (Michael Shannon, hilariously weird and perfect in a movie outside his wheelhouse), and multiple run-ins with a weed-stealing young lady (Ilana Glazer of "Broad City") who idolizes the Grinch, Hans Gruber, and the Sticky Bandits. Ethan also runs into the ex (Lizzy Caplan) he still has feelings for. A tripping out Isaac unknowingly swaps phones with a friend (Mindy Kaling).

An offbeat Michael Shannon entertains as the guys' somewhat otherworldly drug dealer Mr. Green. Lizzy Caplan stands by Rogen and company as Diana, the girl that got away from Ethan.

The Night Before is definitely not your typical Christmas comedy. Most of those either involve Santa Claus and the North Pole or shenanigan-filled celebrations of conventional families. The closest thing to a forebear might be A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, but I never saw that nor do I feel a need to. Night Before is raunchy but pretty funny.
Some of its gags are excessively off-color (Isaac's unplanned appearance at Midnight Mass is a bit cringeworthy, for instance, and there are more "dick pics" on display than anyone will appreciate), but you expect that coming in. The screenplay is not without some heart and a touch of seasonal whimsy and magic. It opens with storybook imagery and rhyming narration from what is revealed at the end of the movie to be Tracy Morgan playing Santa Claus (in case you couldn't deduce that).

There is enough of Levine (whose other movies include Warm Bodies and The Wackness) to distinguish this a little bit from other Rogen hangout movies. Still, those looking for something along the lines of This Is the End and The Interview do find something similar here, minus the meta and satirical angles. The film can't resist a couple of celebrity cameos: James Franco playing a bicurious version of himself and Miley Cyrus as a snappy quick-witted version of herself who performs "Wrecking Ball" live at the Nutcracker Ball. The cameos are one quality carried over from Rogen's origins in the word of Judd Apatow, whose producial backing hasn't been needed in years.

Though not the big draw that Rogen's biggest hits have been, The Night Before grossed an okay $43 million domestic and $52 million worldwide on a reasonable budget of $25 M. That was enough to outperform Love the Coopers and, narrowly, Krampus among 2015's three Christmas-themed wide releases. Like those two, The Night Before isn't waiting a year for holiday relevance on home video. It hit Blu-ray and DVD last week from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The Night Before: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Thai, Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian, Korean, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($26.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Night Before boasts the polish of a studio film, which is on full display in Sony's first-rate 2.40:1 Blu-ray transfer. The element remains pristine, sharp, and vibrant throughout, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is agreeably full of life, especially on scenes with music.

Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to calm a tripping out Isaac (Seth Rogen) in this extended scene. Writer-director Jonathan Levine describes the production's experience of "Christmas in the Summer."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's full slate of HD video extras begins with a section of four deleted and extended scenes (8:00). They show us Chris getting comfortable in the Red Bull limo (watching some expository coverage of himself),
an extended version of Isaac's phone mix-up confusion, and a look at the aftermath of Isaac's Midnight Mass experience with another freak out.

A gag reel of take-blowing laughter runs one minute.

"Christmas in the Summer" (5:35) is a short featurette that explains how part of the movie was shot in summer heat around different parts of New York.

"The Spirit of Christmas" (3:23) lets the predominantly Jewish cast and crew share their personal experiences (or lack thereof) with the holiday.

"The Drunkest Santas on the Block" (4:27) pays notice to the characters played by Jason Mantzoukas and Jason Jones with crude alternate lines, behind-the-scenes looks, and comments from the comedians.

Jason Mantzoukas and Jason Jones say a bunch of inappropriate things in and out of character in "The Drunkest Santas on the Black." Jillian Bell is among the cast members discussing "Midnight Mass in Nana" in character.

"Midnight Mass with Nana" (4:06) takes us behind the scenes of the film's

probably most incendiary scene with actors giving interviews in character.

"Whale Juice" (3:11) looks at the strip club nightmare scene with clips of the actors cracking each other up a lot (mostly Jillian Bell cracking up Rogen).

"Mr. Green-O-Rama" (3:59) collects thoughts on Michael Shannon's unusual character, some unused alternate lines and takes blown by laughter.

"Making One Epic Party" (20:22) is the closest the disc has to a general making-of featurette, looking at production and celebrating the cast with behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads.

A number of these extras are apparently exclusive to Blu-ray, with the sold separately DVD apparently dropping the deleted/extended scenes, "Mr. Green-O-Rama", and "Christmas in the Summer."

The disc opens with trailers for The Walk, The 5th Wave, The Brothers Grimsby, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, The Bronze (red band), and The Driftless Area. The same reel plays when you select the menu's "Previews" listing. The Night Before's own trailers (red band or green) are not included sadly.

The menu attaches score to a still of the guys posing during their karaoke number.

The side-snapped keepcase is topped by a holographic slipcover featuring the same artwork below. An insert provides not only Sony Rewards points and your UltraViolet-compatible digital copy but a link to get other Sony movies for as little as $4.99 shipped.

Isaac (Seth Rogen), Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) enter a magically lit tunnel on their way to the top-secret Nutcracker Ball.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Night Before more or less meets one's expectations for a Seth Rogen Christmas movie. Less cookie cutter and formulaic than many a lazy holiday tale, this raunchy outing does a decent job of keeping you entertained and only occasionally offended. Sony's Blu-ray wields a terrific feature presentation plus a solid near-hour of bonus features. Whether now or closer to Christmas, the disc warrants a rental for those who can get on board with Rogen's brand of humor.

Buy The Night Before from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Drunk History: Season 3 • Love the Coopers • Don Verdean • 99 Homes • Creed • Room
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The Walk • Premium Rush • 10 Things I Hate About You
Seth Rogen: The Interview • This Is the End • The Guilt Trip • Knocked Up • Superbad
Anthony Mackie: 10 Years • Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Lizzy Caplan: Hot Tub Time Machine • Cloverfield
Directed by Jonathan Levine: Warm Bodies • All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Christmas Comedies: Elf • Four Christmases • Fred Claus • Deck the Halls

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Reviewed March 9, 2016.



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