NEW YEAR’S EVE
*1/2 (out of 5)
December 6, 2011
Ashton Kutcher as RANDY
Hilary Swank as CLAIRE MORGAN
Sarah Jessica Parker as KIM
Josh Duhamel as SAM
Jessica Biel as TESS BYRNE
Michelle Pfeiffer as INGRID
Zac Efron as PAUL
Katherine Heigl as LAURA
Robert De Niro as STAN HARRIS
Directed by: Garry Marshall
BY KEVIN CARR
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About two years ago, the ensemble rom com “Valentine’s Day” made an enormous splash at the box office. Starring just about everyone in Hollywood, the film romanticized the holiday with interconnected love stories that all take place in one 24-hour period. The film was such a hit that it was a no-brainer that Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema would demand a sequel.
And demand, they did. Soon, “New Year’s Eve” was on the fast track with the same writer and Garry Marshall on board as the director. Many of the actors signed on again to play different roles in a similar-themed film. But where “Valentine’s Day” had a certain degree of charm and serendipity, this non-sequel reeks of a shameless grab at more money.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not one of those critics who loathes the romantic comedy genre. In fact, I like a good popcorn film as much as the next person. And Garry Marshall has a real knack for putting these movies together. In some ways, he’s the father of the modern romantic comedy, being the director of “Pretty Woman” more than twenty years ago.
But that doesn’t mean the guy is flawless. Like the rest of the cast and the hype surrounding “New Year’s Eve,” I doubt he saw how flawed the concept was from the first step.
I’m not sure why New Year’s Eve was chosen as the day to wrap the stories around, but it makes a certain amount of sense considering all the other holidays were taken. However, unlike Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve isn’t exactly a day that can be romanticized. The opening of the film shoots itself in the foot with Hilary Swank’s voice over contemplating what brings the world together for one night with the hopeful looking ahead to a new year.
The answer they’re going for is love, of course. But we all know that’s not the case. New Year’s Eve is not about love any more than Christmas Day is about fishing. I’m sure it happens for some people, but at its core, New Year’s Eve is a drinking holiday. Like it or not, this is how our society looks at things.
So this forced rose-colored glasses image of New Year’s Eve never quite sticks. If it had, it would make Swank’s story about the woman in charge of getting the ball to drop in Times Square even remotely interesting. But it doesn’t, and it eventually falls into ludicrousness when the lighted ball gets a short in it and she has to make a “Braveheart” style speech to the crowd in Times Square about how hope is still alive… and everyone is silent and hinged on her every word.
“New Year’s Eve” feels like a film made by an entire cast and crew that has never actually celebrated New Year’s Eve. It’s a poor excuse for a film, and the ensemble cast hacks their way through their ten-minute snippets of awkward story that they get. These bits are assembled from tired 80s sit-com plots, including a couple stuck in an elevator, a couple having a baby, a nosy neighbor and even two pointless musical guests who get spotlight songs. (This includes the nonsensical addition of Jon Bon Jovi who is falling in love with half-his-age Katherine Heigl and Lea Michele proving that she can’t act outside of a “very special episode” of “Glee.”)
The entire film ignores reality and timing, with Times Square clearing only minutes after the ball drops, characters being able to run a couple blocks to cover the entirety of Manhattan and everyone complaining they have to work on New Year’s Eve when December 31, 2011 falls on a Saturday.
If you loved “Valentine’s Day” and adore Garry Marshall’s fluffy rom coms, you might enjoy this movie. But I feel sorry for the guy you drag into this hack job of a film.