New Year’s Eve
There may be other movies as nakedly, desperately cynical as New Year’s Eve, but there aren’t many. It’s his first project since last year’s Valentine’s Day — which was also written by Katherine Fugate — and like that movie it’s a pretty obvious attempt to mimic Richard Curtis’ 2003 film, Love Actually, which is a far superior movie in every way than both of these put together.
The biggest giveaway to its pandering ways is the sheer size of the cast; never have so many given so much for so little as here. This is a movie that has Alyssa Milano, Héctor Elizondo, Jim Belushi, Common, Yeardley Smith, and the director’s sister — actress and director Penny Marshall — in bit parts. There is so much star power assembled here in the desperate, pleading hope that all of their fan bases will turn out to see their favorite stars… do pretty much nothing, really.
Obviously, the action centers around Times Square and the famous ball drop, which Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) is in charge of as the vice president of the Times Square Alliance, with some moral support from NYPD officer Brendan (Chris Bridges). Ryan Seacrest (himself) hosts the telecast, at which rock start Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) is due to perform. And fifteen-year old Hailey (Abigail Breslin) wants to be there to share a midnight kiss — her first — with Seth (Jake T. Austin), much to the consternation of her mother, Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker).
But before Jensen arrives there he has to play at a gala event hosted by his label, Ahearn Records, and catered by his ex-girlfriend, Laura (Katherine Heigl) and her sous-chefs, Ana (Sofía Vergara) and Sunil (Russell Peters). Meanwhile Sam Ahearn (Josh Duhamel), son of the label’s late founder, has to catch a ride to the party from Connecticut on which he recounts the story of possibly meeting The One a year ago.
Nobody would like to go to the party more than Paul (Zac Efron), and he’s offered four tickets from frustrated, frumpy Aheard Records secretary Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) if he can somehow make her last year’s resolutions all come true. He gets no support from his roommate, Randy (Ashton Kutcher), a cooler-than-thou hipster who would hate any New Year’s Eve party on principle even if he weren’t stuck in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), who has been hired for one night as one of Jensen’s backup singers. True to her Glee form, she will sing nothing original.
And since this is New Year’s Eve the standard symbologies are out in force, with all the heartstring-tugging overtones they can muster. Griffin and Tess Byrne (Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel) are in the race to deliver the first baby of the new year at their hospital, with the reluctant help of their new-agey obstetrician Dr. Morriset (Carla Gugino). Meanwhile, Stan Harris (Robert De Niro) is hoping to squeeze out just one last ball-drop before his cancer wins out, as his nameless doctor (Cary Elwes) and nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) provide what little palliative care they can.
And I was bored stiff by all of it. Every storyline was canned, including the switch-ups of the telegraphed crossovers between story lines. Nobody has any significant amount of screen time and we jump between stories so quickly that it’s hard for anyone to be very good, but some performances are particularly uninspired. Heigl, in particular, delivers her usual schtick in her close-ups, but in larger groups her body language is unfocused, screaming that she’s as bored making the movie as we are watching it.
The only really great acting comes from Pfeiffer who, being over 50, can only be allowed to play mothers or pitiable spinsters like Ingrid. But she takes this part and plays the hell out of it as the only actor on screen who doesn’t seem to be phoning it in with one of their stock characters. Ingrid is the only character who is at all emotionally fleshed-out, and even she lacks the texture of any character in Love Actually. The filmmakers simply have no time for such fripperies as characterization or backstory.
Depressingly enough, Valentine’s Day made quadruple its production budget in box office returns, and I see no reason New Year’s Eve won’t follow suit. Given the previous outing’s appearances at the MTV and Teen Choice awards ceremonies, Marshall and Fugate have figured out how to market undifferentiated pablum to undiscerning kids who will fork over their money because they simply don’t know any better. If you know one of these poor, benighted souls, do them a favor and buy them a DVD copy of Love Actually to show them how it’s supposed to be done.
Worth It: not remotely.
Bechdel Test: pass, actually.