New Year’s Eve

Even with one of the largest A-listers ever assembled in a film, New Year’s Eve turns out to be one of the worst films ever made.

More than once, Time magazine has crowned New York City as the best place to be on December 31st. Along with Paris, Sydney, London and Hong Kong, New York remains within the top 5 destinations to spend New Year’s Eve. This fact known, director Garry Marshall attempts another romantic-comedy using the same formula he applied in Valentine’s Day, which in itself, appeared to be his version of the British super hit- Love Actually. Alas, for all that has gone into the making of this film, New Year’s Eve suffers a catastrophic failure to lift-off, owing to a shoddy story and Marshall’s failure to connect said story with the viewer.

Just like Valentines’ Day, there are no lead characters, with the main plot replaced by a multi-faceted story that links most characters like a web. Set within the vicinity of Times Square and just hours before the count down, the famed ‘ball-drop’ mechanism hits a snag, even as party revelers start to gather at the Square. In charge of the event, Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) must now locate a former technician who happens to be the only person who can fix it. At a nearby hospital, Stan Harris (Robert De Niro) is on his deathbed but is determined to see the ball drop for the last time. Almost run over by a car, Ahern Records employee Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) quits her job and with the help of a deliveryman (Zac Efron), embarks on a series of New Year’s resolutions. Preparing for the Ahern Records New Year’s Eve party, head chef Laura (Katherine Heigl) confronts musician Jenson (Jon Bon Jovi) for being jilted after their last encounter. As Jenson’s back-up singer, Elise (Lea Michele) finds herself stuck in an elevator with neighbor Randy (Ashton Kutcher) just before the show. Elsewhere, Ahern Records heir Sam (Josh Duhamel), rushes to his own party with the opening speech, but gets stuck with car trouble. Back at the hospital, mothers-to-be Tess (Jessica Biel), and Grace (Sarah Paulson), compete in artificially inducing labor based on a rumor offering a monetary reward to the first child born in the New Year.

As you can see, there are just too many sub-plots, each vying for the viewer’s attention. Even so, none of these short stories are given adequate attention through the screenplay or characterization by the actors to create some sort of emotional impact. For a romantic-comedy, I find this film seriously deficient in both romance and comic elements. Above all, most of the sub-plots are just too stereotypical and contrived. Completing New Year’s resolutions at the eleventh hour? Glee in a malfunctioning elevator? Jeopardizing the safety of an unborn for money? Sure, there is a central message in all this, and it screams “Hope” and “second chances” and replacing “what if” with “what will be”. Noble as that sounds, the main problem here is that these virtues loses its potency due to poor narration and a lackluster finish. If that weren’t bad enough, the over indulgence in star power blows this out of proportion. Like trying to kill a fly with a bazooka, there are over 25 top Hollywood actors who try to do their part with limited screen time. Except for one or two, none of the others help the story in any way. Needless to say, star power is sacrificed in making this movie the mother of all cameos. Although I must say, it was a pleasant surprise to see various famous personalities throughout the movie, including Ryan Seacrest taking over Dick Clark and Russell Peters acting out one of his standup jokes. Finally, the entire film appears to be a bold statement that New York’s Time Square is the best place to be when ushering in the New Year. Possibly. But considering the bland story and indifferent acting, this film then seems like a mega advertisement promoting New York, which again is clichéd since we already know New York is famously associated with year-end festivities.

Given the concept here, Love Actually is the undisputed original and by far a thoroughly enjoyable film with a very high feel-good factor. For Marshall and his army of stars, this Auld Lang Syne fizzles and sputters with sparks instead of grand fireworks.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.