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The Night Before (Blu-ray Review)

the-night-before-blu-ray-coverHere’s the holiday comedy that could have been a nice counter to the normal fall blockbusters. The Night Before tries really hard to be something fun and different, yet fit for the crowd that loved This Is The End and Neighbors. To its credit, there are some good laughs to be had, but it feels like there is a much better drama lurking under the surface. The exaggerated comedy moments and wild shenanigans can be fun, but I feel like it would have been nice to see more of the flipped side of things. Now you can learn about the Blu-ray and find out more of what to expect.

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Film:

The film revolves around three friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), spending a night together on Christmas Eve. This is a tradition the trio have held onto since Ethan’s parents passed away 14 years earlier. As the guys have grown up, they decided this will be the last time they have a wild Christmas Eve together. Fortunately, Ethan has finally secured tickets to the biggest party in New York City. The only problem is the journey to get there and how to properly take on the night.

Jonathan Levine takes on directing duties for this film and he’s also responsible for the original story. Given his work on the terrific 50/50, it was exciting to see him teaming Rogen and Gordon-Levitt back up and throwing in Mackie for good measure. That said, with Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir all being involved with the screenplay, I wonder how much was added to make this story so much raunchier than a basic description would suggest.

It is not that the R-rated humor hurts this film. Hearing F-bombs flying, while Rogen trips out on mushrooms and Gordon-Levitt takes on some bad Santas is not at all a hindrance on the enjoyment factor, but it does feel like there was more potential here. I have been admiring what Goldberg and Rogen have come up with on their own, as they‘ve branched out into directing. For all the coarse humor they load into their films, they also feature plenty of heart. ‘The Night Before’ has heart as well, but the arc of all three characters feels hampered by being so crowded with ideas.

In an alternate universe, there is a well-intentioned dark character comedy here, which provides ample time to dig into why each of these characters need to grow up and how they successfully do so. As it stands, this film takes a few too many shortcuts when it comes to delivering on its dramatic heft. That said, this film also features Michael Shannon as the pot-dealing ghost of Christmas past, present and future.

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Yes, I guess it does make sense to note the comedy does combine a mix of humorous comradery between the cast members who get along so well (Jillian Bell has become a secret weapon of comedy in these bro-centric features) with some absurdist beats that balance the line between silly and witty. Few films could pull off Die Hard and Home Alone references during a foot-chase involving stolen drugs, but this is the movie that goes for it.

The Night Before is also fairly low-key in its presentation, despite delivering some inspired lunacy. Perhaps that is for the better, as this film works best when it is just the cast in hang out/exasperated conversation mode. That said, Rogen does some of his best comedic work here. His character’s wife has given him a bevy of drugs for just this night, which leads to a wild series of events that allow for some raw comedic energy that intensifies what Rogen is capable of. Given my (and some others’) thoughts on how Rogen may sneakily be the best of the actors that have come out of the Judd Apatow stable (save for maybe James Franco), it is still fun to see him sink into the silliness so effectively.

Credit also needs to go to some of the other performers mentioned. Shannon is a terrific addition that truly proves this man is capable of just about anything (clearly Michael Fassbender needs to take on more comedies, so I can be at peace with this). Bell is just one of the many funny females present here, as Mindy Kaling, Lizzy Caplan, Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and even Miley Cyrus make good use of their time. There are even some other fun surprises for those looking for them.

A great thing about The Night Before is how those enjoying these performers don’t have to worry about waiting for a sequel. It’s another entry in the comedy field that proves you can just put the same funny people together without having to turn everything into a franchise. This film may not be a laugh-a-minute sleigh ride in the same way the other Rogen/Goldberg-produced comedies may have been in the past, but it has its fair share of laughs and enough warmth to bring on some fine R-rated holiday cheer. Maybe next time around Levine, Rogen and Gordon-Levitt can hit the drama harder, but for what this is, The Night Before has some good yuletide fun.

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The Night Before arrives on Blu-ray with a pretty solid video transfer. The film was shot digitally and mostly takes place outdoors and indoors, but you get a lot of detail in the surprising amount of production design. Take the characters’ sweaters for example. Each have intricate details that come across quite clearly.

Depth: Characters emerge in the varying depths of field effectively enough.

Black Levels: Black levels are mostly fine, given the extensive outdoor scenes and more.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty solid, with an occasional level of pop when the lighting is just right against the costumes specifically.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures actually register very well. You get a good amount of detail when looking at the characters up close.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English, French DTS-HD MA, Spanish, Thai, English – Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Korean, Spanish, Thai

Dynamics: This solid lossless audio track does a fine job presenting the film. It’s a lot of joke-heavy dialogue with occasional bursts of energy through other means. You are treated to lots of good music choices throughout though, along with well-handled chatter.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE Channel gets plenty to work with thanks to the New York City atmosphere and soundtrack bursts.

Surround Sound Presentation: While the dialogue is clearly focused in the center, the various channels get enough to deal with throughout the film. It’s a fine balance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone sounds clear.

 

Extras:

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I have come to expect more from the extras for these films, so it was pretty disappointing to find a lack of a commentary track, which likely would have been hilarious and insightful. Still, there are a number of pretty solid featurettes and more for those looking for some additional comedy.

Features Include:

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD) – You get about 10 minutes of excised and alternate footage, which I guess was not used for an extended version, which I kind of expected.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 1:00)
  • Christmas in the Summer (HD, 5:35) – A look at the making of the film, which happened during the summer.
  • The Spirit of Christmas (HD, 3:23) – Some cast and crew stories about Christmas.
  • Drunkest Santas on the Block (HD, 4:27) – This featurette looks at two of the key cameos that occur in this film.
  • Midnight Mass with Nana (HD, 4:06) – A look at the big church scene.
  • Whale Juice (HD, 3:11) – Another look at one of the film’s sets.
  • Mr. Green-O-Rama (HD, 3:59) – Michael Shannon’s time to shine!
  • Making One Epic Party (HD, 20:22) – A decent making-of that contains the most insight about the development of the film.
  • Previews (HD)
  • UltraViolet Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

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The Night Before may not be the Christmas comedy classic that fans of these actors may have hope for, but it does get points for being fairly humorous and ambitious in its attempts to have some emotional impact as well. It has some great scenes that should not be taken for granted as well. The Blu-ray is good enough from a technical perspective, though I wish the extras had a bit more insight. Overall, if you missed it in theaters, The Night Before is a decent rental, even if it’s not exactly the right season.

 

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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