Thursday 4 September 2014

Movie Review: New Year's Eve (2011)

A frivolous waste of time, New Year's Eve is an excuse for a large number of star names to cash cheques in return for about 10 minutes of screen time each, as about eight insipid micro-stories unfold on the big night.

All the events occur in and around New York City as midnight approaches. Claire (Hilary Swank) is responsible for the Times Square ball-dropping ceremony, and faces a crisis when the ball-lifting mechanism fails. Stan (Robert De Niro) is on his deathbed at a nearby hospital, being cared for by nurse Aimee (Halle Berry). Stan's dying wish is to observe the ball-dropping ceremony one last time from the hospital roof deck. Rock superstar Daniel Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) is scheduled to perform at a party being catered by his ex-fiancée Laura (Katherine Heigl). Jensen hopes to win Laura back. Aspiring comic book artist Randy (Ashton Kutcher) has no interest in the frivolities of New Year's Eve, and gets stuck in his apartment elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), one of Jensen's back-up singers.

Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) is depressed, quits her job, and convinces courier Paul (Zac Efron) to help her fulfil a long wish list. Divorced mom Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) is having trouble controlling her 15 year old daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin), who wants to spend the big night with her friends at Times Square. Young couple Griffin (Seth Meyers) and Tess (Jessica Biel) compete for the financial prize of having the first baby born in the new year with another competitive couple. Businessman Sam (Josh Duhamel) has a car crash on his way to delivering a speech in New York City, and has to hitch a ride with a noisy family travelling - slowly - in a large RV.

Produced by the same team and following the same template as Valentine's Day (2010), New Year's Day manages to lose any sweet spirit and just piles on the fake emotions. The stories are routine, the characters are stock, the laughs are lame, and the vapid call for love, delivered on live television no less, just reeks.

Of course some of the stories intertwine at the edges, but director Garry Marshall is unable to develop any of them past the point of childish two-sentence treatments. Of the stars on parade, De Niro, Swank, Berry and Pfeiffer are a league apart, and despite the lack of substance demonstrate the gulf in talent compared to the many lightweights like Kutcher, Heigl, Efron, Parker and Duhamel. Marshall manages to stretch out proceedings to two excruciating hours, padding the thin material with Bon Jovi performing two songs. Presumably to attract the young demographic, television starlet Michele also gets to belt out her own number. On this New Year's Eve, midnight really can't come soon enough.

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