Review: “New Year’s Eve”
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Produced by: Mike Karz, Wayne Allan Rice, Garry Marshall
Written by: Katherine Fugate
Edited by: Michael Tronick
Cinematography by: Charles Minsky
Music by: John Debney
Starring (in alphabetical order, by first name): Abigail Breslin, Alyssa Milano, Ashton Kutcher, Carla Gugino, Cary Elwes, Halle Berry, Héctor Elizondo, Hilary Swank, Jake T. Austin, James Belushi, Jessica Biel, Joey McIntyre, John Lithgow, Jon Bon Jovi, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Lea Michele, Ludacris, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penny Marshall, Robert De Niro, Russell Peters, Ryan Seacrest, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Paulson, Seth Meyers, Sofía Vergara, Til Schweiger, Yeardley Smith, Zac Efron
The reason why I ordered the cast in such an order is, quite frankly, because I couldn’t figure out what the main starring role for this film was. Wikipedia had Halle Berry listed first, but I don’t really think her role as a nurse who simply stays put while a man is on his deathbed until it’s revealed in the final couple minutes that she’s also been longing this whole time for her man-in-combat really puts her at the forefront of this film’s ridiculously massive cast. The alphabetizing brings a little sanity to the madness of what amounts to a celebrity hodgepodge of A, B, and C-listers. At the very least, if that list doesn’t get me a bump in the site hits, I don’t know what will. (Possibly a review of Garry Marshall’s previous ensemble casserole, Valentine’s Day….)
It seems as though the whole idea behind Garry Marshall’s last two films have been centered entirely upon whatever combination of actors were available at any given moment, regardless of how much time they were able to put in, and whatever holiday was falling within the target release date. James Belushi, for example, has probably a minute, tops, of playing a partying superintendent of Ashton Kutcher’s building before disappearing from the film altogether. Bam! Star power. You entertained yet?
Who’s next? How about Alyssa Milano as a nurse absolutely no story arch whatsoever? At least you get a sense that Belushi’s character has something going on in the background. Milano may as well have been an extra. I can honestly say that I didn’t realize she was in the movie until near the end, when she finally had a clearer appearance on the screen, though I admit, I was also struggling to keep attentive while the movie was busy playing Celebrity I Spy with itself. Apparently a deleted scene exists of Milano having a much more significant one-on-one moment with Robert De Niro, who has a far more substantial role (i.e., about 10 minutes of actual screen time) as the aforementioned dying man, which just exemplifies the significant case of bloat this film suffers from.
The resultant film maybe could’ve been a more meaningful commercial had it been trying to sell something other than itself or its cast. At a mere 2 hours and featuring a core cast of at least 19 key cast members, there’s just not enough room for anyone, and yet the movie still feels like it’s about 115 minutes too long. There’s no common theme running through the film aside from the fact that each character must get into the arms of some other character by the time the film ends.
There is a trite little speech that Hillary Swank’s character delivers to a national audience where she talks about the promise of new beginnings provided by what is, quite honestly, one of the world’s most overblown holidays and other such platitudes, but since her character, the Vice President of the Times Square Alliance, is just buying time while the big ball is being repaired (by Marshall’s inexplicable mainstay, Héctor Elizondo, no less), the speech feels more like an uncaring acknowledgement of the audience’s perception of the film itself than it does a unifying theme for the film’s insignificant collection of story bits.
Oh, and I should mention that there are three musical numbers that spring up toward the end, too. Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele, as apparently the most admired rock star of his time and the backup singer, respectively, manage to suck all the life out of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me” (a sequence that suddenly finds the movie stumbling into cheap music video territory), and Michelle’s twee rendition of that New Year’s standby that nobody actually remembers the lyrics to, “Auld Lang Syne,” which plays as storylines are haphazardly woven together at the last minute and/or brought to a merciful end.
I knew, going in, that I would very likely hate this film, but I watched it because, well, New Year’s Day was coming, and my stepsister happened to get it for Christmas this year. Perfect timing, I thought. But I couldn’t have imagined how incredibly bored I wound up being. I dove in expecting “so bad, it’s entertaining” and found nothing but banality, a film that merely amounts to varyingly famous faces being in close proximity to one another in sometimes odd combinations (Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer). I was mostly amazed that somehow an entire production team and studio inexplicably thought this was fit for release as a cohesive and meaningful work.
Despite having so many storylines going on, there’s not really a whole lot that happens in New Year’s Eve. It’s as if Garry Marshall saw the trite but sincere Love Actually and then, somehow ignoring that that film had charm and a point behind its sentimental exterior, went out to make not one, but two grotesque imitations of what was already just a better-than-average ensemble work. Here’s some advice: If you want fluffy but genuine feel-good feelings about finding love in all places and times, watch Love Actually. If you’re still feeling charitable afterward and want to justify the time Michael Tronick spent digging through the steaming deuce that Marshall dropped on his desk to find anything even remotely presentable, I’m not sure justifying this film’s existence by putting your hard earned money down on New Year’s Eve and encouraging some sort of third follow up by Marshall is the most charitable thing you could do. Just… stay away and hope that everyone forgets this somehow existed and made money.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 1 / 5