Film Review: New Year’s Eve

new_years_eve_crown_stillNew Year’s Eve – Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher
At first glance, Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve looks like a stereotypical holiday rom-com featuring a big name ensemble cast and a pile of storylines designed to give everyone their moment. Looking a little deeper, it’s exactly that. On the positive side, it doesn’t have any qualms about admitting it.

There are at least eight stories being told, including a chef in love with a singer, a Scrooge-type stuck in an elevator with a backup singer, a mom having a moment with her daughter, a man dying, a woman learning to live, two couples competing to have the first baby of the year, a man trying to get to a party and a flustered project manager with a broken New Year’s Ball.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry – the stories are easy to follow and none of the characters are confusing. the down side is that’s because very few of the stories have depth. A lot of the dialogue is exposition and it keeps the viewer from having to think too hard about it.

Garry Marshall is a legend in the entertainment industry, and a big part of this movie is him making sure he can cram as many people with a name into it as possible. Few ensembles get any bigger or more noteworthy. Besides most of his family, there are two De Niros (Robert and his daughter, Drena), two Catwomen (Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer), four award-winning musicians (Bon Jovi, Ludacris, Common, Lea Michele) and Zac Efron, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Katherine Heigl, Sofía Vergara, Russell Peters, Ashton Kutcher, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Joey McIntyre, Larry Miller, Yeardley Smith, Hilary Swank, Hector Elizondo, John Lithgow, Matthew Broderick and Michael Bloomberg. Among others. Seriously, that’s reached the point that it becomes a negative.

The film achieved it’s basic goal. It was mildly enjoyable and after the two hours was up I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time – much. For a feel-good dramedy, it worked without working well. The storylines were interesting, but the lack of time and resultant lack of depth made them less than enthralling. When Zack Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer (I’m not going to bother remembering character names – the constant assembly line of name actors overshadowed any damn I cared for learning who they were acting as) go on a journey to complete a list of goals Pfeiffer’s frumpy office assistant has, I was hooked. Instead of a story about these two really getting to know each other, which is what I was looking forward to, I was given a staccato series of events that outlined the experience instead of allowing us to experience it with the characters.

The comedy was rather dull, peppered with obvious setups that fall flat. When a guard tries to pick up Hillary Swank because he did earlier and she just asked him to “give her a lift,” it felt so forced I felt bad for the poor man. Occasionally, a crowd scene would feature a quick cut of an extra or cameo doing something awkward or odd, but the final result ended up feeling more forced than fresh. Matthew Broderick’s character being name Mr. Buellerton was completely unnecessary and showed exactly how far they were reaching. Someone should have told them that Times Square is in New York, not Chicago.

For a holiday film, it will suffice as a flick that can be thrown in regardless of the company and everyone will have an actor they like that will give them an excuse to watch. It’s unlikely many will walk away with a fresh perspective on their life or what the new year will bring – the monologues are poorly-timed and end up being space wasters because of it. When the big meaning-of-life speech happens right in the middle of the movie, there are so many characters (all of which are conveniently not only watching, but paying attention to the same channel) that it takes another hour to resolve everything. By that time, we need a second speech to remind us of the content of the first.

What we’re left with is a two hour film that is mostly a collection of first and third acts. There are so many characters with so many stories that need introduction and resolution, there is no time to explore the journey they take to get between the points. New Year’s Eve was a disappointment, but not a horrible one.

New Year’s Eve – Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher
Score: C-

Here’s a great Funny Or Die parody to give you an idea. The parody is, unfortunately, better than the flick. Hell, John Cusack is in it – that’s got to count for something.

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