“New Year’s Eve” is a movie that if nothing else has a lot going on. The film consists of multiple stories each with its own handful of recognizable actors. The logic is that everything can’t possibly fail at once and everyone should find something to enjoy. It’s a faulty logic because the variety of characters and storylines are all products of the same uninspired writing and direction. What we want is a rainbow, what we get is multiple shades of grey.
I’ll just list the storylines and share a few random thoughts.
A young professional (Hilary Swank) is in charge of the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. She’s nervous and frets over everything, but she gets consolation from her security guard friend (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges). In a highly predictable twist, the big ball malfunctions as the midnight deadline draws ever nearer. Matthew Broderick has a cameo as her boss and we’re supposed to laugh like hyenas over the fact that his character is named “Buellerton”
A courier (Zac Efron) helps a frumpy career woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) fulfill her past year’s resolution list in one day. It’s all shortcuts (a quick stop at an Indonesian spa counts as “visit Bali”), but she’s pleased with the results. I didn’t recognize Pfeiffer because she’s a brunette in this movie and I didn’t recognize Efron because he’s an adult. It’s not a bad thing, just unexpected.
A mother (Sarah Jessica Parker) wants to share the evening with her teenage daughter (Abagail Breslin). The daughter wants to be in Times Square with her friends. Mom won’t allow it so she sneaks off. Mom gives chase. Yes, it’s one of these storylines again.
An old dying man (Robert DeNiro) just wants to watch the celebration from the rooftop of his hospital. His doctors (Cary Elwes and Halle Berry) are sympathetic but can’t allow it. DeNiro and Berry have their Oscar-winning charisma, but there’s no saving the material from dullness.
A rock star (Jon Bon Jovi) reconnects with his caterer ex-fiance (Katherine Heigl) who he abandoned and left steaming mad. The only thing noteworthy about this storyline is that Sofia Vergara play’s Heigl’s assistant. She’s charming as always, but the film can’t really find anything for her to do and she’s an awkward fit in the story.
A bachelor (Josh Duhamel) tries to get to New York to reconnect with a woman he met on New Year’s Eve the previous year. He experiences the usual collection of setbacks before hitching a ride with a quirky family. Apparently the film thinks that the world doesn’t have enough holiday comedies about transportation issues.
A New Year’s-hating jerk (Ashton Kutcher) gets stuck on an elevator with an aspiring singer (Lea Michele) who’s booked for a gig with the rock star. The audience at my screening booed Kutcher the second they saw him, which made me chuckle.
In the film’s most tolerable story, two couples (Seth Myers/Jessica Biel and Til Schweiger/Sarah Paulson) compete to be the first to have their babies arrive in the new year. It’s material that hasn’t been mined to death already and the casting of German tough guy Schweiger (as a professional charm coach no less) is an interesting choice.
It’s not that “New Year’s Eve” is a painful comedy, just a bland one. Shifting from one predictable story to another isn’t as bad as focusing on one of them for two hours, but it isn’t a substitute for compelling storytelling. I actually have no problem with the idea of the film crowding itself the way it does, I just wish the film would crowd itself with more creativity.
Two Stars out of Five
“New Year’s Eve” is rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references. Its running time is 118 minutes.