Review – Ho Ho, Oh No… (“The Night Before”)

Ah, Christmas! A time for getting together with your friends, going to parties, and getting wasted. Wait..  what? Yes, it’s wild and wacky Seth Rogan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie taking the traditional Yule time and spinning it into a time for The Green Hornet, Robin, The Falcon, with a little General Zod (Michael Shannon), to get blitzed.
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Mazeltov!

It’s Christmas night in NYC with three BFF’s: Issac (Rogan), a lawyer and soon father-to-be, Chris (Mackie), a super-star football hero who endorses Sony cellphones and Red Bull, and Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), a lonely and broke aspiring singer/songwriter. After 14 years they’re gathering for the last time together because, well, Issac’s gonna be a dad and Chris is becoming a major football star, so they can’t possible remain together as friends anymore (???).

Anyway, Ethan steals three tickets to a highly coveted and super-secret Nutcracker Ball party for him and his pals as their last fling. Chris springs for a Red Bull stretch limo and Betsy (Jillian Bell), Issac’s pregnant wife, gives her husband a drug ‘snack pack’ for Christmas that she got from Craig’s List. Needless to say, en route to the party of parties, multiple hi-jinks and adventures ensue: Issac’s cellphone gets swapped with a kinky girl named Sarah (Mindy Kaling), Ethan meets Diana (Lizzy Caplan), his old girlfriend at a karaoke bar, and Chris runs into Rebecca (Illana Glazer), a mischievous thief and slut who hates Christmas.

While Issac gets bombed on mushrooms and blow, the trio try and score marijuana from the enigmatic Mr. Green (Shannon), who also delivers them the “Weed of Christmas Past, Present, and Future”, as a sort of Dickensian spirit. During all of this mayhem and more (Jewish Issac freaking out during a Catholic Midnight Mass is a highlight), the gang comes to grips with the reality of their lives through bickering and how much it’s gonna suck once they split up.

In the end, reality and life wins out over fantasy and the boys discover that friendship, true friendship, is the glue that holds them together. Look for blatant and shameless product placement from Sony and Red Bull, along with some great cameos by James Franco, Miley Cyrus, and a cute ending with Tracy Morgan.

The Night Before because… the story takes place ON Christmas night? Yeah, that makes sense! Written by Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express), Kyle Hunter, Jonathan Levine, Ariel Shaffir, and directed by Levine, this jumbled R-rated comedy is a series of SNL skits packaged in a Christmas box with questionable wrapping. Raunchy on the outside, but awkwardly sentimental on the inside.

Many of the jokes hit home, while others just lay in the snow melting away. Characters like Joshua (Nathan Fielder), the rambunctious limo driver and Rebecca were hilarious, but they had no pay-off later. The best stuff comes from Mackie and Rogan who look like they’re ad-libbing half the script, while Shannon’s Mr. Green is delightfully creepy and cool at the same time.

Director Levine, who also directed Rogan and Gordon-Levitt in 2011’s 50/50, knows his stuff and has fun with the trio, despite the mediocre script. The clashing of comedy and sentimentality is a tricky thing and here it just comes off as forced. If you want a movie to handle both and do it well, try an Judd Apatow or Farrelly Brother’s movie. 

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

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In the third and final entry of the Harold and Kumar trilogy, this irreverent Holiday stoner comedy features the our two Marijuana-loving buddies, Harold Lee and Kumar Patel in a festive, seasonal movie that has babies on crack, death-threats from family members and crazed drug lords, and blowing Santa’s skull off. Hey! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Three years after Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, things have settled down… more or less. Harold (John Cho) is now married, and is a successful Wall Street businessman who has given up the ganja. His stoner pal Kumar (Kal Penn), on the other hand, is poor, still living in his messy apartment, and has recently been dumped by his girlfriend. Feeling lonely and sad, Kumar decides to visit Harold, but it’s bad timing. Harold’s intense and scary father-in-law (Danny Trejo) has brought over his prized Christmas tree for the holidays and, oopsie! Kumar accidentally burns it to cinders while the family is away at Christmas Eve church services .

Panicking, Harold and Kumar have only a few hours to find another Christmas tree to make everything right; but everything goes horribly wrong. All the local trees are sold-out, but a promising lead in the city leads to a meeting of old friends and attending a wild party on the condition they can have their tree. But! A nympho party girl seduces Kumar and turns out to be the daughter of a Ukrainian mob kingpin named Sergei Katsov (Elias Koteas)! Enraged, he sends two of his men to kill Harold and Kumar and the duo escape without the tree. They then plan to steal a tree from a church, but end up participating in a Christmas stage show featuring Neil Patrick Harris, who they thought had died in the previous movie. Harris hooks the pair up with a Christmas tree and a “Wafflebot” mini-robot companion that he hates. 

Yikes! The two are kidnapped by Katsov’s men, saved by Wafflebot, and then accidentally shoot the REAL Santa Claus (Richard Riehle) in the head, almost killing him! Kumar gives him emergency surgery and, in exchange for saving his life, Santa agrees to fly them back home in his sleigh. . . but with no tree. Harold, sick and tired of being a coward, stands up to his father-in-law and wins his respect when the tree comes up missing.

A very funny screenplay by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the guys who wrote all the Harold and Kumar movies, this one hits on all cylinders with just the right amount of drug-silliness, comedic timing and dialogue, ridiculous situations, friendship bonding, Holiday weirdness, and even some really funny stop-motion claymation thrown in for good measure.

Directed by first-time feature film Todd Strauss-Schulson, you’d never guess he’d only done TV series and short films before this. A terrific flair for the absurd and a keen eye for the silly, Strauss-Schulson turned this H&K movie into probably the best in the series and the funniest.

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