One of the reasons "This Is The End" worked is because Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were serious about the horror elements in the film, making the comedy even more of a pressure valve. If you're working to subvert a genre from within, you can't do it with tongue too firmly in cheek or you risk making a parody. With "The Night Before," the script by Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Sfaffir and Evan Goldberg is not just a story set during Christmas, but is a very knowing and intentional "Christmas movie," with any number of references to other Christmas films and with plenty of smart takes on the various tropes of the genre. It may be overstuffed the point of bursting, but there's much to like here.
Beyond that, though, "The Night Before" is a consistently funny and genuinely heartfelt story about three friends at a turning point in their friendship, and it should come as no surprise that Jonathan Levine gets the emotional side of things right. After all, the last film he made with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen was "50/50," and Levine in general has made movies that land their emotional punches. This is his most manic film so far, and part of the fun of "The Night Before" is seeing just how wild a ride it is for the characters played by Gordon-Levitt, Rogen, and Anthony Mackie. They cover a lot of ground and get a chance to play with a big ensemble cast full of comedy assassins who steal scenes left and right, and I suspect this will be a film that people return to in future holidays, taking its rightful place on the list of films that become part of the annual tradition.