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Movie Review

The Night Before

MPAA Rating: R for drug use and language throughout, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity.

Reviewed by: Curtis McParland

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Christmas Comedy
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 20, 2015 (wide—2,700+ theaters)
DVD: March 1, 2016
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

extended families / importance of friendships in a difficult world

difficulties of losing a parent when young

possible emotional difficulties for non-Christians in dealing with the Christmas season

celebrating debauchery

being lascivious

LUST—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

vulgarity and profanity

use of illegal drugs for recreation

drunkenness and driving while under the influence

Why should followers of Christ avoid crude, vulgar language?

Ephesians 4:29 says to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What are the likely consequences of continual vulgar sexual talk, lewdness, profanity and low thoughts—compared to focusing on goodness and righteousness?

GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer

What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.

phobic fear of committing one’s life to another in marriage

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

using performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports

Christmas movies
REVIEWS of “Christmas” movies

Featuring: Joseph Gordon-LevittEthan
Seth RogenIsaac
Anthony Mackie … Chris Roberts
Jillian Bell … Betsy
Lizzy Caplan … Diana
Michael ShannonMr. Green
Heléne Yorke … Cindy
Ilana Glazer … Rebecca Grinch
Aaron Hill … Tommy Owens
Tracy Morgan … Narrator / Santa
Darrie Lawrence … Nana
Nathan Fielder … Joshua
James FrancoJames Franco
Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus
more »
Director: Jonathan Levine—“50/50,” “Warm Bodies
Producer: Columbia Pictures
Good Universe
more »
Distributor: Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

Ah, Christmas. The time of year that brings peace and joy to many. But that’s not the case with Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), though, after his parents passed away in a tragic car accident one Christmas Eve. However, he still has his buddies Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) who stay by his side and in the process establish a new Christmas tradition for the trio.

From their annual visit to Rockefeller Center, to ordering Chinese food, these three friends literally become a family over the next decade. But all good things come to an end. The trio’s annual Christmas Eve festivities are going to end after many years, since Isaac is married and expecting his first child with his wife, Betsy (Jillian Bell), and Chris is very busy since he became a professional athlete. However, these three friends want their annual tradition to go out with a bang and have one last epic Christmas Eve extravaganza by attending the supposed “holy grail” of Christmas parties: The Nutcracker Ball. Obtaining tickets to the biggest Christmas party of the year is no easy feat, though, and through trial and error these three friends are in for a Christmas Eve they are bound to never forget.

“The Night Before” really isn’t your typical Christmas comedy and surprises with some witty humor and an interesting premise. Director Jonathan Levine does a decent job of directing his talented cast through the streets of New York, and one can definitely feel a sense of Christmas cheer as these three guys try to make the best of the holiday season. However, “The Night Before” does fall back on some standard comedic clichés, though, has a middling second act, and slowly drifts apart before picking back up in its final half-hour. The script has its strong points, with moments of original dialog, but yet again struggles with occasional, typical R-rated storytelling. The overall Christmas theme is played out, and the film, as a whole, has some nice moments of cinematography along with a smooth flowing story, with a blend of sentimentalism.

“The Night Before” may not contain hard, R-rated material throughout, but its moments of sexual content, graphic nudity, and obscene language are sure to scar some audiences. There are quite a few sexual references ranging from various sex acts to references to male and female anatomy. One character has (mostly clothed) sex with a complete stranger in a bathroom, and we hear noises, vulgar language, and witness some graphic sexual positions and movements. Fortunately, we are spared from seeing any nudity. A character accidentally swaps phones with another and, in the process, receives numbers of obscene, graphic nude images from a man. This happens on more than one occasion, as the camera focuses in on the phone. Suggestive messages are also sent within the texting conversation.

There is also a brief scene in a strip club with quick glimpses of upper frontal female nudity. One character appears to be gay (he jokes about having sex with a man and having a threesome), and we see two women kissing at a party. The language is very strong, as the script is marred with close to 150 f-words (once said by a baby and used a number of times sexually), c-words (3), s-words (65+), and dozens of other milder profanities including a**, h*ll, d**n, p*ss, and b*tch. Crude terms for both male and female anatomy are used, including d*ck, c*ck, t*ts, and p*ssy. God’s name is abused nearly 15 times, and Jesus” name is misused at least twice.

The violence may not be graphic, but one character does get in a fistfight with a couple of Santa’s, another gets dragged down the street by some fake reindeer, and a limo gets t-boned by a semi-truck (no one gets hurt). A woman appears to be about to commit suicide. A rat is thrown at a character, some minor scuffles break out, a character gets a bloody nose from snorting cocaine, and another gets his hand impaled by a wine glass, pinning him to a wall (there is some blood, and there’s a joke about him being crucified).

There is a load of alcohol consumption, including plenty of hard liquor, some hardcore partying, and a plethora of drug content. Marijuana, cocaine, and shrooms get screen-time, and we even see some characters consume them on screen. The effects of illegal consumption are seen, as a character hallucinates and a number of characters are seen drunk (including Miley Cyrus). The friends interact with a drug dealer, a portion of a character’s rear is seen as he injects himself with steroids, and a handful of characters also smoke cigars. A character vomits in one scene.

Considering how vulgar “The Night Before” is, I am actually quite surprised that the writers took the time to add some reverent nods to faith and religion, rather than pen in more disrespectful jokes. After the “Messiah” character is mentioned, another character says that the only Messiah he knows is his Lord and Savior and that he finds that particular usage of the name blasphemous. A picture of Mary and Jesus hangs on a character’s wall, and a respectful prayer is said at the dinner table.

However, there are jokes made about faith and religion, as one character is referred to as the “Messiah,” a drug dealer is supposedly a guardian angel, and a Jewish character (completely high) yells out in a church “We did not kill Jesus!” after he sees a crucifix. The same high character begins to have a “conversation” with an inanimate shepherd in a Nativity scene.

“The Night Before” tries to capture Christmas spirit. But despite its positive themes of friendship, family, and loyalty, it is marred with way too much vulgar and obscene content.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

These three friends do try hard to get into the Christmas spirit by spending quality time (so to speak) with one another, but fail to come upon the true reason for the holiday. ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And sadly, with their twisted views on life, from illicit drug use to obscene language and sexual immorality (although one is respectfully married), neither one of these characters realizes their great need for a Savior.

Ephesians 4:29 says to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

This verse can be viewed from both sides in “The Night Before,” as characters curse each other out, yet help build each other up in acts of brotherly love.

“The Night Before” may have a lot going for it with a solid, comedic premise and some positive themes. But the strong, obscene language, sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug abuse definitely wash away these few positives. “The Night Before” may be a festive holiday comedy that does not refrain from wishing its audience a “Merry Christmas” (what a relief), but I strongly recommend all audiences to keep away from this very vulgar film. There is nothing to gain from viewing “The Night Before,” and, although it may appear to be a sweet “bro-mance” type of Christmas film, it is layered with so much filth that one may find himself wondering if Christmas is supposed to be about one big party or something more… a season with a reason. The birth of a King. A Savior. The one and only true Messiah.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! —Luke 2:10-14

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

What is the true meaning of CHRISTMAS?What is the TRUE meaning of Christmas? Answers for skeptics. Plus carols, games, coloring pages, reviews of Christmas movies, and more.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—This film wasn’t that great, and wasn’t that funny, and should not be viewed by those who follow Christ. I came into this film not knowing the rating, and I had no idea it was going to be that morally offensive, but this movie DOES have a good message that true friendship is like family and that you need to stick with your friends through the good times and the bad.

All in all, I say avoid this, even if you are a Seth Rogen fan.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Shannon, age 34 (USA)
Movie Critics

…“The Night Before” is a bad holiday headache… I was searching for a metaphor to capture the experience of watching “The Night Before” when a character fell backward into a dumpster full of garbage bags. Thanks, guys!… [1/4]
—Kyle Smith, New York Post

…A reminder of how many funny people Seth Rogen can cram into one film. With its gallons of booze, David Mamet levels of profanity and enough pot to kill all eight of Santa’s reindeer, “The Night Before” clearly aims to lodge itself into the well-established adult holiday comedy genre. You know the one: it’s that comfy corner of the market where filmmakers freely mix vulgarity with sentimentality, vices with Vixen… [3½/4]
—Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

…If your Santa wish list includes yet another “James Franco swings secretly gay” gag, then Christmas has come early for you, friend: “The Night Before” has granted that wish. Hopes for a truly great holiday comedy, alas, will be dashed. …
—Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle

…Seth Rogen serves up Christmas film with side of pot… It’s not subtle, witty or even that creative, but this movie about three friends trying to get into an exclusive Christmas party still manages to be funny—and ultimately touching…
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)

…a so-so stoner film where the premise is almost always better than the execution… Levine and his writers will do just about anything for a laugh—pity they don’t find enough of them…
—Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

…“The Night Before” combines two weary genres — the sentimental Christmas movie and the naughty-boy comedy—as if knocking their heads together might wake them both up. …the emotional moments don’t pay off any better than most of the jokes…
—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

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