Esther McCarthy reviews The Night Before & Victor Frankenstein on today's Movies and Booze
The Night Before (16) ***
Dumb fun is the order for this stoner comedy in a Santa hat that's set for a timely season cash-in. And while the set up is not exactly original in this B-list bromance, an on-form cast make the most of an occasionally funny script.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the under loved Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen are having fun in this chaotic, patchy and crude comedy. But here's the thing: the humour is kind of infectious.
Still, the film takes its time to get going. The trio play Ethan, Isaac and Chris, pals who have spent every Christmas Eve together since Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) endured a family tragedy in his teens.
But as they hit their thirties and the tradition is growing a little stale, they agree - in Ethan's case, reluctantly, to have one last festive knees-up and make it a biggie. Isaac (Rogen) has been given a pass and gifted a variety of substances by his missus as parenthood looms, while Chris (Mackie) wants to move on from the tradition to pursue his fast-growing success and fame as an athlete.
The dream? To finally secure tickets for the Nutcracka Ball, the hottest and most elusive ticket in town. The film risks bogging itself down in the conventions and cliches we’ve seen in so many movies of this ilk in the opening half hour. But these actors know comedy and they go for it. The result is slight but fun.
Victor Frankenstein (12A) **
This latest take on Mary Shelley's much-loved tales in a most peculiar thing - a monster movie with barely a monster in sight.
Told from the perspective of Dr Frankenstein’s assistant, Igor, the film centres on the relationship between the two men as they attempt to create life using groundbreaking but macabre scientific methods.
Played by Daniel Radcliffe, Igor is a talented scientist who has the misfortune to be imprisoned by a travelling circus because his hunched back is seen as a novelty for onlookers.
When his friend Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) is seriously injured during a trapeze performance, both fall under the radar of Victor (James McAvoy), a man obsessed with his ambition to create new life.
It’s not long before the duo’s morally dubious ambitions land them in trouble with the authorities. Top cop Roderick Turpin (Scott), a devout Catholic with strong feelings on creationism, is especially disturbed by Victor’s plans and determined to bring him down.
It’s an ambitious new take on a well-told story, but there are numerous problems in its execution.
Daniel Radcliffe is a fine young actor, and the best thing about this film, but he feels miscast as Igor, while the performance by McAvoy - usually so good in every role he plays - feels shrill and over the top. Yes, we know Victor is meant to be barking mad, but there’s no need to hammer it home to audiences in every scene.
Even Irish actor Scott gets to deliver little more than ‘Moriarty-lite’ in a tamed-down version of his Sherlock villain, while Brown Findlay looks beautiful but is given nothing to work with.