Monday Morning Critic – Seth Rogen, The Night Before And Being in the The Career Crossroads of Comedy

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The most interesting film this weekend is The Night Before, I think. To be fair everyone is going to be seeing the latest Hunger Games film, or Spectre again, but there’s nothing really interesting to discuss about either of those films this time around. Jennifer Lawrence’s burgeoning megastar status is something to discuss in a couple weeks, closer to Joy being released and propelling her back into Oscar contention, as this is going to do a couple things for her.

Mockingjay Part 2 is going to make an ungodly amount of money opening weekend, of course, and the biggest film of the year to open until Star Wars destroys every box office record imaginable.

What won’t be anywhere near as big as either of those films will be The Night Before, trying to find the niche as the R-rated comedy that those not interested in the blockbusters will wind up going to. It also represents an interesting career crossroads for one of its stars, Seth Rogen, as the stalwart Canadian comic actor finds himself at a very interesting place. It leads to one question, really, that eventually he’ll have to answer.

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How much longer is his pothead man-child shtick going to last?

I like Seth Rogen and it’s been curious to see his rise up the cinema comedy chain ever since a supporting role in The 40 Year Old Virgin launched his career. He was a favorite of Judd Apatow early on and when Apatow wound up being the king of comedy for a while Rogen was arguably the biggest benefactor to it. He headlined Apatow’s biggest film to date and wrote another top line comedy (Superbad) as well. He’s had a number of hits and is less than 12 months from nearly causing an international incident with James Franco through a silly comedy.

His career has been sporadic but Rogen is one of those actors that everyone likes at least once.

He’s a lot like KISS in that way. Everyone has a favorite KISS song they like in the same way people have one film Rogen starred in that they like. A friend of mine hates Rogen and every one of his films … but adored Observe and Report. There’s always one film Rogen’s in that people can point to and go “Yeah, I like that” even if they dislike Rogen’s general body of work. But the one thing that’s interesting is that as his career progresses, and he moves further away from his biggest hits, his appeal is waning and nothing he’s done has been able to stem the time.

But it’s not for a lack of effort. One thing Rogen has done over the years is taken roles that are well outside his wheelhouse. Unfortunately he hasn’t had the sort of success going outside of his normal comic routine. It’s kind of crazy that Rogen has tried to alter his stars a number of times and hasn’t been able to pull it off.

The Green Hornet felt like Rogen’s attempts at breaking out of the sort of niche role he still occupies by making a mainstream studio action film and potential franchise vehicle. Unfortunately Rogen wasn’t the first choice … or the tenth. A handful of directors came and went, including Kevin Smith, and none of them lasted. The project was in pre-production hell for a long time and half of the film’s production cost was probably in pay or play contracts to a lot of Hollywood elites who had been attached.

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Every actor of note was attached to the iconic hero and wound up leaving the project with Rogen being the last guy to say yes and stay on. It was crazy to see how many people came and went over the years with that film … and crazier that a pudgy comedian and an Asian pop singer would wind up in the iconic roles in a film that wound up as being a throwaway winter release. I imagine someone will want to try to make it again in a couple years, given Hollywood’s love of both remakes and franchises, as probably someone wants to team up Iko Uwais and Jai Courtney for yet another crack at the apple, but one has to give credit where credit is due.

He slimmed down for the role significantly, trying to debut to a lot of new eyes as a more svelte leading man. Rogen may not have been in prime comedy form but you can tell he wanted to change his career trajectory in one fell swoop. Two years earlier he had gone for a darker comedic role with Observe and Report, which didn’t turn a profit but garnered rave reviews and high praise for Rogen. He took a chance on the indie Take this Waltz and has adapted his persona into a grayer version for his last couple of films as a thirty something idiot man child pothead.

Steve Jobs was supposed to be something that established his dramatic bona fides, as he got a vote of approval from Steve Wozniak himself for the part, and that film has been nothing but a disaster at the box office. Its box office bombing may affect any chance Rogen has at any sort of end of the year hardware, as well, and The Night Before comes at a weird place for the actor.

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There’s only so much longer he can continue with the sort of idiot man child that has defined the Seth Rogen Experience for the past decade. And if this film gets lost in the shuffle of what’s a loaded end of the year field, where does Rogen go next?

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The Night Before – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie and Seth Rogen get all messed up on drugs the night before Christmas. Think Harold and Kumar for 30 something dudes.

See It – I like the cast and an R-rated comedy is heavily reliant on a great cast.

The Secret In Their Eyes – A remake of the Argentine film of the same name.

Skip it – The original was good but not great and I can’t see the American version doing anything more with the materia.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – The final film in the franchise as Jennifer Lawrence leads the rebellion against the forces of evil brewing in the capitol.

See it – The failures of Battle Royale the franchise have wound up strengthening The Hunger Games franchise as it transitioned into a war film franchise of sorts.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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