Christmas came early one September evening in 2014, when myself and a small band of reporters trekked to Brooklyn to see what Yuletide shenanigans would be offered with The Night Before. Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie front this funny feature about three friends whose lives are pulling them in very different directions. Fighting the tide, they reunite in New York City on Christmas Eve, searching for the Holy Grail of holiday parties: The Nutcracker Ball. Stepping onto the soundstage, we got an instant exposure to the magic and mayhem promised by the premise, along with a big fat ode to Big.
Who could forget the iconic scene where man-child Tom Hanks dances on the giant keyboard at a massive toy store? Well, in The Night Before, you've got Rogen and Gordon-Levitt collaborating on the massive floor piano, while Mackie rides a toy horse and hypes up the crowd as all three perform a jaunty version of Kanye West's "Runaway." Despite some racy lyrics, children gather and clap mittened hands, parents marvel instead of sneer. Even with the edges of the set well within my view, it's Christmastime in Manhattan. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
We sat down and spoke with Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as well as director Jonathan Levine, producer James Weaver, producer and screenwriter Evan Goldberg, and some key elements of the Christmas-manifesting crew, and learned there's lots to look forward to during The Night Before.
It's about the end of an era. Seth Rogen plays a soon-to-be dad, out enjoying his last hoorah pre-baby. Anthony Mackie is a pro football player who’s blowing up. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a 10-year orphan, drifting in life and struggling with losing touch with his old pals. Making matters madder, Rogen's loving wife (22 Jump Street scene-stealer Jillian Bell) gives the ultimate gift to her baby daddy: a boatload of party drugs. "It gets weird," Rogen promised, "There’s some stylistically surreal moments" -- including a strip club scene moviegoers won't soon forget.
The success of Neighbors made The Night Before wilder. With the gross-out gags and outrageous humor of the frathouse-focused film proving a massive success for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, they realized The Night Before could stand to turn up the volume on its outlandish gags. Whether or not we'll see something as shocking and silly as Rose Byrne's milking scene remains to be seen. (Writer Goldberg and producer James Weaver were divided on that point.) But Levine noted, "We have the most dick jokes of any Christmas movie, safe to say, and the most dicks on screen, by far."
Expect an R-rating, but no cynicism. "We might trick people into thinking it’s cynical for a few minutes here or there, but no, it is not cynical at all," Levine told us over one of the poshest set lunches this reporter has ever seen. (Sushi buffet for days!) He added, "It’s not like Bad Santa. It goes as far as Bad Santa (in wild humor). It goes further than Bad Santa…but our movie, the throughline is less fucked up. It’s just kind of crazy things happen, but our movie always maintains a positive (vibe). It should always feel upbeat, uplifting. It never gets down and dark in that way."