Like the Times Square celebration, “New Year’s Eve,” a film about many different people on the last night of the year starring just about everyone you’ve ever heard of, is more akin to airhorns, crowds, and glitter than to a satisfying champagne toast and tender midnight kiss.
New Year’s Eve, along with Halloween and Valentine’s Day, is gathering steam as a secular holiday with enough meaning to supersede the religious holidays in our culture. It’s little wonder then, that Garry Marshall, the director who brought you “Valentine’s Day,” is back with a star-packed, overreaching, ultimately empty homage to the last night of the year.
Story lines swerve, stagger, and dance around each other like revelers at a club at 11:45 on Dec. 31, so the plot is hard to define. Mousy secretary Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) finally quits her awful job and draws up a bucket list of wishes, enlisting the help of cocky bike courier Paul (Zac Efron). Claire (Hilary Swank) has the job of putting on the ball drop at Times Square but has a date to catch. Stan (Robert De Nero) lays dying in the hospital tended by Nurse Aimee (Halle Berry). A caterer (Katherine Heigl) is horrified to find her client is her old boyfriend, a rock star (Jon Bon Jovi). Two pretty people (Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele) get stuck in an elevator while elsewhere a single mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) fights with her daughter (Abigail Breslin) and a couple (Jessica Beil and Seth Meyers) check into the maternity ward determined to have the New Years Eve baby.
The script has a few surprises, occasionally leading the audience down one rabbit hole instead of the expected one. On the other hand they’re not really surprises because almost every storyline winds up exactly the way the viewer expected from the very moment they met the character.
What is a surprise, however, is the awkward attempt to elevate New Year’s Eve to something more than a chance to drink and dance the night away. When things go horribly wrong at the ball drop, Swank’s character gives a speech. (We will leave aside the fact that the government lackey had a podium ready to go and the world’s press at her beck and call. It’s as if Leslie Knope had an international press conference.) In the best tradition of bureaucratic bait and switch, she declares that the ball has stopped for the very purpose of giving people a chance to reevaluate the year that passed, examine their hopes and dreams, and remember what the holiday is really about.
People cry in the movie. In the theater, they just laugh.
Then we’re off again in a relentless quest to have as many famous face cameos as possible (Ooh! Look! The woman who voiced Bart Simpson!) and have each character get exactly what they want and/or need.
God Bless us, every one.
Bon Jovi and Lea Michele sing, which has to be the strangest musical pairing ever, and those corks pop. Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual references, the film is really quite unobjectionable except for its complete failure to have a purpose and its utter lack of intelligence. It just might take a year off your life.
One bright spot was Modern Family’s Sofia Veraga as Heigl’s sidekick. Whenever she came on screen, I started to have fun. Unfortunately, that was never enough and her presence only served to remind me of what fun movies can be.
In other theaters far away from the one in which I sat.
Which is where I wished I was.
Don’t waste your money on this wreck. Put it toward a nice bottle of bubbly on the night itself. You’ll get a better value.