Buddy comedies are always fun to pull off, but you don’t always see them especially when combined with the “stoner-film”-genre and the “Christmas”-genre. It’s not that these types of films are hard to make or don’t lend themselves to the holiday spirit… actually it is quite the opposite. You’re able to utilize the usually Christmas archetypes, stories and tropes in unique ways that are often funny and accessible to a wide audience that grew up watching cheesy Halmark touchy-feely films. But for whatever reason, it is an extremely underutilized and unexplored sub-genre and the only two films that really come to mind that fit this bill are A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas and, the more recently released, The Night Before, starring Anthony Mackie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. The latter film was actually extremely enjoyable as well but balances stoner/buddy with the Christmas themes and has a solid story to boot!
For the last 10 years, lifelong buddies Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holidays with a bang. As Isaac prepares to become a first-time father, the friends realize that their annual tradition is coming to a sad end. To make it as memorable as possible, they plan a night of debauchery and hilarity by searching for the Nutcracka Ball, the Holy Grail of Christmas parties in New York.
Than, the films sort of main-main character is interesting because he has a bit of a duality in that he is extremely excited about Christmas and the quest for the Nutcracka ball, but is also sort of the sad sack of the group. He is stuck in the past, unable to find love or move forward because of his tragic past but his closest friends are moving on with their lives. Throughout the film he battles the idea of letting go of his dead parents while still trying to keep their bro-traditions alive. He character progression comes to a head when he runs into his ex girlfriend and the love of his life that he lost due to his lack of commitment. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lizzy Caplan’s chemistry sparks in this film even when they’re fighting and its fun to see their interactions unfold.
But this film’s main fun is seeing how these three men, that are way too old to be partying their pants off during Christmas, get themselves into some increasingly odd situations. Like Seth Rogen essentially getting high on every drug imaginable and, though originally composed at the beginning of the film, unraveling as the night continues, or Anthony Mackie having to battle a random hipster girl who is attempting to live out her Christmas by committing the crimes and dirt deeds of the great Christmas villains like Hans Gruber or the Wet Bandits, this film isn’t afraid to take liberties with the story or events just for the sake of fun. But they do it in such a way that you still stay invested in the story and the characters.
Most of all, this film is great at combining Christmas themes with hilarity and is not afraid to just chalk up dumb luck to a “Christmas Miracle”, and I love it for that! Obvious this wont be the most family friendly of films, but it knows its target audience and kids just aren’t it.`But the film constantly borders on the supernatural which causes you to suspend your disbelief while allowing the characters to still feel grounded even while the impossible happens all around them. This may not be an instant Christmas classic for a lot of folks out there, but with how much fun this movie was and with how much awesome is packed in the film– it definitely deserves additional viewing for at least the next few Christmases.
Director Jonathan Levine revealed on Collider that all of the film’s comedy was mostly improvised and the dramatic moments were stuck to as per the written script, which he admitted was more like an outline guide.
All three of the main characters have been in super hero movies: Anthony Mackie in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises, and Seth Rogan in The Green Hornet
Isaac (Seth Rogan) reenacts a moment from another Christmas-themed film, Home Alone (1990), where Macaulay Culkin’s character places his hands on his cheeks while letting out a scream.
There are many references to “Die Hard” (1988) including a character falling off a building invoking the name Hans Gruber, the music to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and characters singing Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”.