*** out of ****
The Night Before is a subversion of the typical Christmas movie wherein characters journey to find the true meaning of the holiday. This raunchy and gross-out movie manages to do that in the end, but along the way it is irreverent and laugh-out-loud funny.
Three lifelong best friends – Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (New Orleans' own Anthony Mackie) – traditionally have celebrated Christmas together and every year they search for a fabled and secret Nutcracker party. This year, however, is their last one together because Isaac is married and about to become a father, and Chris is becoming a popular professional football player. The commitment shy Ethan fears he may be alone for every Christmas from now on, but he stumbled onto three tickets for the Nutcracker party. It ends up being one wild night for the three of them.
The Night Before amusingly references past Christmas movie such as Home Alone, The Grinch and even Die Hard. Some of the funniest bits are what Isaac sees in his drug-fueled haze. Game supporting players include Michael Shannon as drug dealer Mr. Green, and Ilana Glazer as a wily super Grinch.
What makes The Night Before work is that it is never mean-spirited. Actually, it's kind of sweet in between the blasphemy and drug-induced hallucinations.