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The Night Before Review

As a fan of Martin Scorsese's After Hours, I was pleasantly surprised to see "in the tradition of After Hours" on the back of the DVD case for the Keanu Reeves/Lori Loughlin 1988 vehicle The Night Before. Could this film match the frenetic energy of Scorsese's Kafkaesque journey through the hipster underworld? Well, The Night Before is no After Hours, but it scrapes by on sheer manic energy, as if director/co-writer Thom Eberhardt and writer Gregory Scherick are terrified of the viewer getting even slightly bored. All in all, The Night Before fits snugly into the 80's comedy category - with a few exceptions.

Winston Connelly (Keanu Reeves) has woken up on the street of the seediest Los Angeles neighborhood imaginable. He quickly realizes he has several significant setbacks, all related to the night before of which he has no recollection. His prom date, Tara Mitchell (Lori Loughlin), is missing and he owes money to a man named Tito (Trinidad Silva). Possibly the longest running joke of the film, Tito's identity and the reactions of the neighborhood denizens to a mention of his name is a tired gag but a useful plot device whenever Winston needs to travel somewhere. The film cribs from After Hours more than just a look, but also repeating motifs (car thief and hoodlum Danny Boy makes so many appearances it drains the humor out of them, but the similarity of his arrivals to those of Neil and Pepe of After Hours is obvious).

As Winston slowly uncovers the events of last night and early that morning, the film often flashes back quite creatively, keeping you interested in the progress of plot. But as the blanks are filled in, the viewer realizes that this is yet another lightweight teen comedy, albeit one that frequently stumbles in its desire to keep the laughs coming. Lori Loughlin's Tara is very difficult to like as a character, as she is self-centered and shrill; but I suppose a scene that has Ms. Loughlin handcuffed to a bed in her underwear makes up for it. Mr. Reeves, pre-Bill & Ted, plays Winston like a younger version of Ted, slightly smarter and definitely more unhinged (the scene when a drug-fueled Winston ‘shoots' with his hands at a pair of sunglasses is a classic for the Keanu Reeves overacting vault).

What rescues The Night Before from becoming a bizarrely plotted mess is the film's inability to accept its boundaries. Director Thom Eberhardt does not want to keep playing by teen comedy rules so once in a while he'll up the ante: prostitution becomes a primary plot point, as does the rather clever series of allusions to the fact that Winston and Tara are upper-class white kids from the valley, stuck in a neighborhood filled with a stereotypical selection of Hispanic and African-American characters. Tito himself comes across as a complete throwaway sleaze, his accent and wardrobe giving way to a gangster look long unpopular since the 1980s. Nevertheless, the pervading sense of fun and the breezy pace the film sustains from scene to scene keeps it afloat.

The DVD is presented in full-screen, which is an odd and puzzling choice so late in the game, when Blu-ray is cornering the market and wide-screen DVDs are pretty much the norm for just about anybody. In the end, The Night Before is worth a rental, maybe even a buy if you're a Keanu Reeves fan. I doubt it would stand up to repeat viewings but for a night out with friends (or fellow Keanu bashers, you make the choice), you could do a lot worse.

DVD Bonus Features

 

A sparse trivia track and trailers for upcoming Lionsgate DVD releases round out a disappointing lack of special features.

"The Night Before" is on sale April 14, 2009 and is rated PG13. Comedy. Directed by Thom Eberhardt. Written by Thom Eberhardt, Gregory Scherick. Starring Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin.

Apr
13
2009
Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.

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