NEW YEAR’S EVE
Directed by: Gary Marshall
Written by: Katherine Fugate
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Abigail Breslin, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Til Schweiger, Sarah Paulson, Cherry Jones, Lea Michelle, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Sofia Vergara, and Ashton Kutcher
Ever since HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU was made a hit by the theater going public (shame on you!), Hollywood studio executives have been eager to capitalize on the ensemble romantic comedy. Just when we thought VALENTINE’S DAY was the death knell of the genre, now comes NEW YEAR’S EVE. It shows us there’s a whole new ring of Hell awaiting us.
During the course of this journey into the bowels of Hell story, the lives of several couples and a few singles intertwine (or sometimes not at all) over the course of one particular evening. It’s New Year’s Eve in New York City and prep is being made for the traditional annual crystal ball drop in Times Square. Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) is the newly named Vice President in charge of making sure it all goes according to plan (and to give a few precious speeches about reflecting on the past). Helping her execute this large task is her head of security (played by a bored shitless Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and head electrician Kominsky (frequent Marshall collaborator Hector Elizondo). On the other side of town is unhappy ARI record company receptionist Ingrid (Michelle Pfieffer), who quits her job only to bribe bike messenger Paul (Zac Efron) into helping her cross off her bucket list resolutions before midnight. Ready to move on from under her mom’s (Sarah Jessica Parker’s) wings, is Hailey (played by a very made up Abigail Breslin). She wants to go out with her friends to celebrate in Times Square but can’t since mom has no life of her own. Also making a life change is Chef Laura (Katherine Heigl), who runs the calmest kitchen you will ever see and whose “amazing” culinary creations – from what I could tell – amount to pineapple slices, deli sandwich rollups, and Jello. Her event planning company got their big break catering ARI’s New Year’s Eve party. Little did she know, her rock star former flame Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) had everything to do with her landing that gig. And, oh my God, we’re not even halfway into the cast introductions!
As if the stories so far weren’t convoluted enough, there still are more to go. Josh Duhamel is trying to make it into the city in time to have a midnight meet up with the mystery woman of his dreams. Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers play a pregnant couple competing against another pregnant couple (Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger) to deliver the first baby of the new year and win $25,000. In that same hospital lays a dying Robert DeNiro, who forms a fast friendship with a very kind nurse (Halle Berry). And finally, Randy (Ashton Kutcher) finds himself stuck in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michelle) who will – of course – teach him of the joyous wonders of the holiday (and to love again).
Seriously, people. When did Gary Marshall become the Terrence Malick of romantic comedies? To have such elusive and exclusive actors dying to work with him, surely this must be about more than just the money, right? And there are no bit players here either. Basically, if you are an actor in Hollywood right now and you weren’t in this film, fire your agent! Simply put, NEW YEAR’S EVE feels overstuffed with its cast. So much so, character storylines (of which there were far too many) never have any room or time to breathe.
The script by Katherine Fugate (VALENTINE’S DAY) is severely lacking in any authentic conflict and earned emotion – things that are so desperately needed to engage an audience. And even worse, it’s chock full of unearned sentimentality. “Take a leap of faith,” “Don’t let failure bring you down,” and “Listen to your heart” are the messages vomited up in Act 2. By the time they have Bon Jovi sing the on-the-nose ballad “Have a Little Faith In Me,” viewers will think they are being mocked. And there are very few laughs in the film. Schweiger alluding to the fact he runs a charm school and the “If you’re here, who’s on stage?” bit being those chuckles. The end credits are the lone highlight – not just because our seemingly “three hour tour” is over but because Efron’s dancing triumphs over evil. Also lacking from the pic is any brilliance or luster in photographing one of the greatest cities in the World on one of it’s most magical and spectacular nights of the year. DICK CLARK’S ROCKIN’ EVE has more sparkle built into it than this piece of garbage.
Let NEW YEAR’S EVE be but a faded memory of 2011 and of Marshall’s career (that apparently has taken a critical dive). This film should be treated like the confetti littering New York City streets. Sweep this trash away.