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George At 

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The Night Before

As a big fan of these filmmakers and actors, I felt like I unwrapped a major lump of coal with the holiday misfire THE NIGHT BEFORE.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Ethan, who lost his parents as a teenager during the Christmas holidays and has bonded with his friends Issac (Seth Rogan) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) every year since on Christmas Eve.

With Issac starting a family and a baby imminent and Chris finding stardom in the NFL, it looks like this Christmas Eve may be their last as a trio, so they are committed to making their final night a blowout for the ages.

Issac's wife gives him a big box of drugs as he leaves the house, Chris arrives with the Red Bull stretch limo thanks to his newfound fame and all is set for a party.

But the friends, and unfortunately the film, then stumble into a series of misadventures that take the film's tone from full on funny to maudlin, touching, violent, farcical, you name it, there's a scene to fit that box.

The structure leaves your head spinning, which is unfortunate because there are some strong things to like within, especially:

* Michael Shannon as the guys drug dealer since high school, a perennial loser, or is he?

* Rogan at full tilt funny. especially in the entire middle of the film after he opens the magic box from his bride and starts taking one hit after another, piling on until he's lost all touch with reality.

Rogan's Christmas Eve scene in a Catholic Church is foul and funny.

* Mackie has some nice moments as a player thriving on his fame while knowing just beneath the surface it will be short lived

* Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, The Interview) is terrific as Ethan's estranged girlfriend. She's real and really funny.

However, when Miley Cyrus gets the film's biggest laughs by very cleverly playing her worse self (and she is excellent!) your comedy might have issues.

Strong comedy players like Mindy Kaling, James Franco and Tracy Morgan are given WAY too little to do. Levitt's a strong actor (see "The Walk" for proof this same year, but his character is underwritten here, just serving as a foil for the plot turns).

I'm afraid this holiday stocking is way too empty when it comes to entertainment.

We'll give it a bah humbug and a C.

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