A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Night Before is a "hard R" comedy set on Christmas Eve that stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie. It's filled with iffy/unsafe behavior, not necessarily with any consequences -- but the main characters do learn to become responsible and to trust one another. There's a brief sex scene, and naked breasts are shown in a strip club; plus, there are penis pictures on a phone and lots of heavy innuendo throughout the movie. One main character takes lots of drugs -- including mushrooms, cocaine, and pot -- and has extreme, intended-to-be-comical reactions to them. A secondary character is a drug dealer, and there's also quite a bit of drinking. Language is very strong and constant, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," and much more. Some violent moments/dangerous situations are played for laughs, including chases, fights, and a stabbing, with a little blood shown. Characters pee and throw up in public.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In 2001, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents in a drunk-driving accident. So on that Christmas Eve, his best friends, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), tried to cheer him up with an evening of fun. That evening turned into an annual tradition, with more drinking and debauchery added each year. Plus, the friends have always searched for the ultimate Christmas party -- known as the Nutcracker Ball -- and this year, Ethan has actually procured three tickets. This is also their final year of holiday debauchery, as Isaac is about to become a father, and Chris is too easily recognized as a football star. Armed with drugs and a limo, the friends must survive a night in the big city, deal with their own fears and insecurities, and keep their friendship together.
Is it any good?
Naughty Christmas comedies are fairly common, and this one doesn't offer much that hasn't been done before, but the bond between the three characters, and a love of Christmas, make it worth seeing. Director/co-writer Jonathan Levine previously moderated male bonding between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen in the terrific 50/50, and he effortlessly brings that level of affection and care to the three men here. They compliment each other nicely, like the three corners of a triangle.
Unfortunately, the humor in the movie doesn't quite take off. It's based on the very simple arcs that each character goes through separately; it's plenty naughty, but it's not terribly surprising. The humor in the similar A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas worked better because it was cleverly balanced between zaniness and sanity. Still, a couple of giggles and a genuine affection eventually save the day and make THE NIGHT BEFORE a stocking stuffer worth opening.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how drinking and drugs are depicted in The Night Before. Are they glamorized? Does the movie make them look like fun, or do the characters pay a price? What would the real-life consequences be?
How can a holiday movie be so filled with problematic behavior and still feel so heartwarming? Can you think of other movies that attempt the same balance? Does it work?
How does the movie handle sex, nudity, and innuendo? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
How does the film portray friendship? Do you think it's realistic? Teens: How do you anticipate your friendships changing as you get older?
Have you ever felt unwilling or unable to take on certain responsibilities? How or why? What happened?
- In theaters: November 20, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 1, 2016
- Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie
- Director: Jonathan Levine
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Holidays
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use and language throughout, some strong sexual content and graphic nudity
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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