New Year’s Eve, the latest ensemble romantic comedy from Garry Marshall, follows the same structure his last holiday-themed assault on the heart-strings, Valentine’s Day, did back in 2009.
Now, Valentine’s Day was widely considered to be not very good (read: bloody awful), so I hoped that this new film, set on one of the most forcefully exciting and romantic nights of the year, and featuring a cast of thousands, would have learnt from its parent film’s mistakes.
New Year’s Eve might be the least romantic and least amusing film of the year, if not the whole of existence. Everything is so contrived and engineered, as well as commercially driven and preoccupied with introducing the next Oscar-winner into the frame, that it comes out stinking of the kind of coercion inherent to the genre, but usually subtle enough to ignore.
There’s absolutely nothing subtle about this film, set in New York’s Times Square on December 31st, and centring on various pairings; familial, romantic and otherwise. It stars (deep breath) Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, and Ludacris.
Few come out of proceedings with their careers intact, but if I have to name a standout, it has to be Hilary Swank. How the two-time Oscar winning actress landed herself in this mess is anyone’s guess, but she does her best with the drivel she’s handed, and delivers the little bit of honesty needed for anyone reaching for the sick bucket or edging towards the exit. She also takes part in the Robert De Niro story thread, a part of the film that’s cheesy, but hard to scoff at.
The biggest disappointment award has to go to Zac Efron, who really should be at home here. Instead, he’s stilted and uncomfortable in a barely-there role, opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in a badly judged cougar plot.
Generic plot arcs come from Katherine Heigl as the jilted girlfriend of Jon Bon Jovi (playing singer Jensen), Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers as an expectant couple, and Sarah Jessica Parker and Abigail Breslin as a mother and daughter struggling with responsibility.
Based on the potentially endearing hook of the behind the scenes goings-on at Times Square on the big night, you can almost see the comedic potentially dripping away by the second, and it’s a depressing experience.
Despite a hilariously long cast list of impressive talent, from both the big and small screen, no one gets enough time to become their characters, and some are just inhabiting previous roles. Glee star Lea Michele is just a version of Rachel Berry, Ashton Kutcher her loveable slacker.
I wanted to like New Year’s Eve, but it’s a hard film to tolerate. It’s inadequate in almost every way, and the fact that it holds all of the ingredients for a guilty pleasure makes that quite an achievement. For those that loved Valentine’s Day, this film provides a suitable follow-up, but for those that thought it was trash, it’s best to avoid this at all costs.