Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Night Before

Year 8, Day 353 - 12/18/16 - Movie #2,495

BEFORE: I set the schedule for these closing days of 2016 weeks ago, but this film about partying at Christmas/Hannukah (and Kwanzaa?) time still found a way to be relevant at just the right time.  This past week has been nothing but one party after another - I think Tuesday was the only day last week I wasn't out socially for some reason.  Monday I got together with my old boss and co-worker, and we went to Pete's Tavern, a bar in NYC that's been serving continually since 1864, and happens to be the place where O. Henry sat and drank (allegedly) while writing the iconic, ironic Christmas story "The Gift of the Magi".  Wednesday was the office Christmas party, so more drinking of beer and eggnog, Thursday of course was the "Rogue One" premiere, and then Friday my friend Victoria and I had our Festivus get-together.  

I usually take a day off (the date changes each year) and go on what I call the Festivus walk, it involves a nice breakfast in Manhattan, a stroll through the holiday market and ice rink at Bryant Park and then the holiday market at Grand Central.  The goal is to see some of the NYC sites that will make me feel most Christmasey, and for the last couple years, Vic has joined me later in the day at the Union Square holiday market, but this year it was just too cold on my Festivus to stay outside for any length of time, so it was reduced to a cup of hot cider in Union Square, an indoor spin through Barnes & Noble, and then finding a place nearby to have a couple drinks.  On a Friday night in Manhattan during December, this was no easy task, we had to go to three pubs just to find a place to sit.  Only after ordering an expensive plate of chicken fingers did I realize my mistake, I'd discovered a great falafel place a couple weeks ago that puts amazing fried eggplant on the falafel at no extra charge, plus they serve beer.  We should have gone there, but even great falafel for some reason doesn't seem as festive as pub food and a couple of black and tans.  

But coming home each night after partying, I saw a lot of people on the subway and street who weren't just drunk, they were "falling down" drunk.  So it seems everyone's got the same idea, to party hearty here in the closing days of the year, or maybe everyone's trying to deal with what a tough year it's been, in many ways, and alcohol just seems like the quickest, best solution to forget one's troubles for a couple of hours.  I'd like to think it's the former, but I know it's probably the latter.  Anyway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries over from "The Walk", and I get to watch the first of this year's two holiday-themed movies.

THE PLOT: On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.

AFTER: I suppose this is to be expected in the post-"Hangover" world of movies, you don't need much plot for a "quest" film these days as long as you have three friends who are willing to stumble around a city exhibiting bad behavior.  I suppose you could also trace this story back to "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas", but it also evokes earlier Christmas films like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol".

Imagine Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" if there were three friends in the Scrooge role, but instead of getting visited by three ghosts, they visit a magical pot dealer (who's more like Clarence the Angel than he is Jacob Marley) three times, and each one has a mystical vision when they do that.  Does that make sense?  Meanwhile they're living the type of wild party-filled night seen in "The Hangover", only they're doing it in real time, not trying to retrace their steps.  

And this also means James Franco is back, playing a version of himself, which just means he's taking the Mike Tyson role from "The Hangover" or the Neil Patrick part from "Harold & Kumar" - geez, once you see that movies are so formulaic it makes you feel like there are only 5 people in Hollywood writing movies, or else they're all cribbing from each other.

This also sort of gives me an unintended theme for the week, going back at least to "Rogue One", where things go wrong, continue to go wrong, and then go terribly wrong, but at least something sort of works out in the end.  For a long while it didn't look like the Rebels weren't going to get that file uploaded, even though we knew for sure that they would, and it didn't seem like Philippe Petit was going to get to walk across those twin towers, even though we knew for sure that they did.  These three friends set out to have a fun time at Christmas, and everything from bad drugs to losing a phone to bumping into an ex-girlfriend seems to be sabotaging their plans, but 

NITPICK POINT: Getting unknown quantities and doses of drugs off of Craig's List is a terrible idea, but when a character starts to have a bad reaction to one of them, his solution is to try another one.  The rational solution to bad drugs is probably not "more drugs", though I realize the character was probably not thinking rationally, due to the drugs.  But this is still a strange message to send out to the kids, when a simpler solution would have been "Hey, maybe stop taking drugs for a bit."  

NITPICK POINT #2: Given that Ethan's character lost his parents shortly before Christmas years ago, it seems more logical that he would have come to reject Christmas and its traditions, rather than obsessing over them and using them as a crutch.  I can appreciate that his two best friends came together that year to help him celebrate, but sometimes when people are not in the mood to celebrate, it's better to just leave them be and let them take a year off.  His friends now want to have one last year doing their traditional things, and then it will be time for him to "move on" - but if they always party together, wouldn't "moving on" mean that he WOULDN'T celebrate Christmas in the future?  This was a little confusing and contradictory.  

My question becomes, have we seen enough of "bad behavior" comedies?  In addition to "The Hangover" we had "Bridesmaids" put a female spin on it, but these led to "Trainwreck" and probably a dozen other comedies with people acting out, but still managing to pull their lives together in the end.  It's an obvious trend, and I suspect that in the real world, the behaviors exhibited are usually the start of a downward spiral that has a much sadder ending.  Isn't it time to grow up and start acting responsibly, even for comedy stars and their characters?  OK, considering the year we all had I'm going to allow it this one last time, but after this, it's time to seriously think about getting some help.  And now we've got "Office Christmas Party" in theaters, so I don't think the trend will be ending any time soon.

Also starring Seth Rogen (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Anthony Mackie (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Jillian Bell (last seen in "Inherent Vice"), Lizzy Caplan (last seen in "The Interview"), Mindy Kaling (last heard in "Inside Out"), Michael Shannon (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), James Franco (last seen in "True Story"), Ilana Glazer, Tracy Morgan (last heard in "Rio 2"), Miley Cyrus (last heard in "Bolt"), Lorraine Toussaint (last seen in "Hudson Hawk"), Aaron Hill, Nathan Fielder, Helene Yorke, with cameos from Jason Jones (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Jason Mantzoukas (last seen in "They Came Together"), Randall Park (last seen in "Sex Tape").

RATING: 5 out of 10 ugly sweaters

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