Emboldened by the success of Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall took another crack at the holiday-based all-star anthology in 2011, with similarly repulsive results. This time, though, movie-goers commendably ignored him (and hopefully quashed plans for Columbus Day or whatever the hell was coming next). Of course, it’s never a good idea to interpret the commercial failure of a terrible movie as anything more than an aberration. But in this case, there was an encouraging sense that the world had finally revolted against a sub-genre populated by cynical, bald-faced cash-grabs.
And indeed, New Year’s Eve is the romantic comedy distilled to its basest form; a film that trots out a dizzying array of A-listers and expects applause, while abandoning time-consuming chores like character, story and dialogue. Hit the jump for the full review.
Let’s dive into this cast of thousands. Hilary Swank is the VP in charge of getting the Times Square Ball to drop; Michelle Pfeiffer is a bored secretary trying to fulfill her list of resolutions before the clock strikes 12; Zac Efron is a bike courier desperate to get into a kickass Eve party; Jon Bon Jovi is a lovesick pop star; and then there’s Sofia Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Katherine Heigl, etc., etc.
If you’re wondering how the filmmakers managed to develop so many characters within the confines of a single movie, they didn’t. Thus we’re treated to lines like “Mom, you’ve stopped trying. Okay? And you’re being all clingy and mean. And it’s because you don’t have a man in your life,” so that the audience will know that Sarah Jessica Parker has stopped trying and is being all clingy and mean…you know, because she doesn’t have a man in her life…Okay?
Their lives intertwine in unexpected yet irrelevant ways, and they’re all instantly forgettable. Even toward the end, Marshall will hop stories and you’ll suddenly remember that “Oh, yeah, Halle Berry is in this.” (Which reminds me, I forgot about Robert De Niro—he’s a patient of Berry’s nurse, he wants to see one last New Year’s before he dies…blah, blah, blah…Hey look! There’s Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges in a cop uniform and Alyssa Milano! Hooray for people I recognize!)
The adventures they’re wrapped up in, meanwhile, are about as insubstantial as you can imagine, all stretched paper-thin over the nearly 2-hour run time. It’s like there was an explosion at the (ever-industrious) generic rom-com factory and chunks of all the blandest plots landed in a lifeless heap on the screen. Abigail Breslin wants to go to Times Square, but Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t want her to go to Times Square; Bon Jovi’s ex-girlfriend Heigl is catering the party he’s performing at and, OMG, she is NOT happy to see him.
There is one that stands out for sheer what-the-hell factor, at the same time embodying the top-to-bottom laziness of this whole affair. Arriving at the hospital early in the evening, pregnant couples Seth Meyers/Jessica Biel and Til Schweiger/Sarah Paulson find that they’re giving a $25,000 reward to whoever has the first baby of the New Year. What follows is…well, take a look:
Schweiger: You probably don’t even know that yams can kick start labor.
Meyers: Well, yeah. Actually we do. In fact, at this moment, my wife is full of yams. But thank you.
Biel: Crammed with yams.
Schweiger: Snap! It doesn’t. It stops pre-term labor.
Meyers: Did he just ‘snap’ me in the maternity ward? Hey, you’re a really hostile guy. Where do you work? The DMV?
Schweiger: No, I run a charm school.
Meyers: Oh yeah, where is your charm school? Guantanamo?
Schweiger: No, it’s on forty-eighth and Madison, and you should come by because you could really use some charm.
But hey, it’s cool. Because we’ve got so many stars up in this thing, we don’t need to write stories or characters or even actual jokes. Just turn the camera on and wait for the Benjamins to roll in.
At the end of a syrupy winter’s night, parents are reunited with children, lonely hearts share first kisses, Lea Michele gets her big solo number, and an overjoyed Efron breaks into dance. A closing voiceover from Josh Duhamel about new beginnings aims to wrap up this inane clusterfuck in a nice little bow. But there’s only one message that really hits home: the true meaning of New Year’s Eve is NOT to collect a large lump-sum cash reward for giving birth to your first child. Happy holidays, everybody!
-‘New Year’s Eve Secrets of the Stars’ Featurette
-‘Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele Rock New Year’s Eve’ Featurette
-‘The Magic of Times Square’ Featurette