The Night Before

The Tone

The Night Before seems to have taken a sort of kitchen-sink approach to the Christmas movie, cramming in as much into this one crazy night as the three leads can handle. That includes four to six musical sequences — “about as much music as you could have without it being a musical,” as Gordon-Levitt put it — including a choreographed karaoke rap routine set to Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.”

There’s also plenty of action. “There’s fighting, there’s chasing, there’s car chases,” revealed Rogen. “Anthony Mackie is a Marvel star. You can’t not use that.” And while The Night Before doesn’t get Bad Santa-dark, exactly, it does get pretty wild. “We probably have more dick-jokes than most dick-joke movies,” teased Levine. “We have the most dick jokes of any Christmas movie, safe to say, and the most dicks on screen, by far.”

And of course, there’s magic. While The Night Before isn’t a fantasy per se, it gets surreal, even psychedelic at times, thanks in part to the massive quantities of drugs that Isaac is taking. One subplot involves a drug dealer played by Michael Shannon, who Levine describes as “kind of the Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life of our movie.”

Shannon’s character sells the guys “the weed of Christmas past, the weed of Christmas present, and the weed of Christmas future,” which Levine says “may or may not be magical.” In one scene, for example, the narcotics give Isaac a Flashdance-inspired hallucination of his as-yet-unborn daughter as a stripper, utterly freaking him out.

The Supporting Cast

As if the combined charms of Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie weren’t enough to sell The Night Before, the central trio will be surrounded by an all-star supporting cast. “Neighbors was the first movie we really did, where we were like, what if we filled every single tiny role with the funniest person we could possibly find,” said Rogen. For The Night Before, he tapped the likes of Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer, Randall Park, Jason Mantzoukas, Jason Jones, and Nathan Fielder.

Also among the key supporting players is Lizzy Caplan as Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, which got Rogen sounding a bit nostalgic. “We started together,” he recalled. “The first time Lizzy ever acted on camera was in a scene with me and [James] Franco, in Freaks and Geeks, 15 years ago, which is horrible.”

The filmmakers also looked outside the usual comedy field to cast actors like Shannon, who’s better known for his dramatic intensity than his comedy chops. “I think that’s why we kind of liked him,” said the director. “We wanted that role to be a straight kind of thing, and the humor was from how straight he took it.”

But some of the highest praise was saved for Jillian Bell, who plays Isaac’s wife. “She destroys me,” said Rogen. “I have a hard time, I’ve ruined, I wasted several good hours of a scene we were shooting a couple weeks ago, because I couldn’t stop laughing.” Levine agreed. “She’s the best. She’s the only person I’ve ever seen in a scene with Seth where he was just like, he kept cracking, he broke so many times.”

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