It seems Anthony Mackie has two holiday movies under his belt now with last week’s Love the Coopers and now with The Night Before. However, it seems the latter of the two is the clear winner this holiday season. Bolstered by a great cast, a good soundtrack, and enough ridiculousness without going too overboard, The Night Before is a Christmas comedy that is clearly written with the eggnog-drinking audience in mind.

Three friends, Isaac, Ethan, and Chris (Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), have a Christmas Eve tradition. Several, in fact. To take on the town and let debauchery ensue is one of the highlights. This year, they’ve decided that it will be their final night out. After all, Rogen has a baby on the way, Mackie is supposedly rolling in sports fame, and Gordon-Levitt has Diana (Lizzy Caplan)… well, had being the keyword here. With a pocket full of drugs, courtesy of Rogen’s wife, Betsy (Jillian Bell) and three stolen tickets to New York City’s premiere and secret party for those in the know–AKA the rich and famous–it will be a Christmas Eve worth remembering.

Director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) dips into the arsenal of comedic weapons to bring some much needed holiday cheer. The soundtrack is fun, the characters fun and crazy enough that they’re entertaining but never reach the point of being overbearing. Each character has something going for them (or not going for them, depending on how you’re looking at it). Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie have natural onscreen chemistry and have just the right amount of a bromance going on that you never want them to have any scenes without each other. Mindy Kaling, Lizzy Caplan, and Jillian Bell (who has a knack for looking the right amount of funny and lethal) have smaller roles but provide a good balance without being stereotypical portrayals of women.

The true takeaway, and revelation really, is Michael Shannon as the trio’s former high school teacher/drug dealer. He is shady and bizarre, be he’s there for the guys when they need him, even if he’s there for reasons other than providing weed. The Night Before manages to develop the characters gradually over the course of the film and although the second act flirts with all comedy and character clichés, the film gets right back on track and will surely make you feel some holiday cheer, with a side of crazy antics and great cast chemistry. A fun time all around.

3.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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