Seth Rogen frequently serves as a producer and co-writer on his movies. However, even when he doesn’t have a hand in the writing (e.g., 50/50, Neighbors) he usually picks movies which ground the guy humor trappings in some emotional throughline, like how the apocalypse is really window dressing for the dissolution of adult friendships in This Is the End. Lately, he seems especially preoccupied with the notion of transition, like how Neighbors is ultimately about two guys (Rogen, Zac Efron) at different stages of their lives but both still struggling to transition into adulthood. Really, from Knocked Up to Superbad (which Rogen co-wrote) to This Is the End to The Night Before you see a pattern of a writer-actor who is continually drawn to stories of friends being torn apart and guys resisting the next stage of life, be it college or parenthood.
It all only really works, though, if the jokes are funny because Rogen’s films are usually comedies first, dramas second, although 50/50 inverts that formula. Unfortunately, The Night Before doesn’t look particularly funny based on its newly released redband trailer:
The Night Before re-teams Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt with their 50/50 director Jonathan Levine and throws Anthony Mackie into the mix, a good move since Mackie seems to be overflowing with charisma. As laid out in the trailer, the story is simply that Gordon-Levitt’s two best friends always hang out with him on the anniversary of the death of his parents. That anniversary just happens to be the night before Christmas, but now that Mackie is some kind of sports star and Rogen is about to become a dad this is probably the last time they’ll be able to honor the anniversary together. So, why not go out in style?
As premises go, “one last crazy night on the town” is a good starting point. However, the trailer gives us way too much Rogen, not enough of Gordon-Levitt and Mackie. Rogen’s schtick is what it is. You know what you’re getting. His character having a drug trip in a church might have seemed more original if we hadn’t already seen him playing an expectant father who had a drug trip at an inopportune time in a public setting in Knocked Up. I want to see more of Gordon-Levitt singing onstage with Miley Cyrus and lobbing jokes back and forth with Lizzy Caplan and Mindy Kaling. I also want to see Anthony Mackie actually speak. Does he even have a line in that trailer? [Just re-watched] He has 4 lines, all in a single scene in a limo.
I can’t imagine The Night Before will pack as much of an emotional punch as 50/50 nor does it look like it’s especially intended to do so. However, with Rogen, Gordon-Levitt and Levine back together I had my hopes up. We’ll see how it turns out when this drops on November 25, 2015.