Film Review: “New Year’s Eve”

by Jason LeRoy on December 9, 2011

Sofia Vergara and Katherine Heigl in NEW YEAR'S EVE

starring: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank, Sofia Vergara

written by: Katherine Fugate

directed by: Garry Marshall

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references

You already know whether or not you’re considering seeing New Year’s Eve at a movie theater this weekend. I don’t imagine there are many swing voters on this one. So why even bother attempting a review of such a shamelessly transparent cash-grab spectacle? Why, to make fun of it, of course! So let’s jump into the numerous “subplots” that comprise this vapid yet harmless exercise in seasonal star power:

  • In a Hairspray reunion, Zac Efron plays an unappealingly douchey bike courier who decides to help a pathetic middle-aged record label secretary (a haggard but decidedly Botox-free Michelle Pfeiffer, basically playing Selina Kyle from Batman Returns if she’d never become Catwoman and was still plugging away as a Gotham assistant) cross items off her list of goals before midnight so she’ll give him tickets to an exclusive party.
  • Katherine Heigl plays (surprise!) a raging ball-buster of a caterer who can’t stop flaring her nostrils or slapping Jon Bon Jovi, who basically plays himself, for walking out on her a year ago. Bon Jovi, by the way, has turned some sort of corner on his looks; he now resembles a middle-aged lesbian in the manner of Kelly McGillis. Sofia Vergara shows up as Heigl’s assistant, and essentially reprises her Modern Family shtick by, ya know, speaking heavily-accented English and spouting “In my country…” crime jokes while sporting custom-made plunging chef jackets with nothing underneath (see above).
  • Halle Berry and Robert De Niro bizarrely find themselves reenacting the Philip Seymour Hoffman-Jason Robards scenes from Magnolia as a nurse and deathbed patient; one of the other cast members turns out to be the Tom Cruise estranged child who pays a crucial last-minute visit, but sadly the comparisons to Frank T.J. Mackey end there.
  • Hilary Swank, making a slightly less reprehensible stop on her “Mama needs some dough” tour following her glitzy feting of a Chechen dictator, plays the Vice President of Making Sure the Ball Drops or some such nonsense – but then it gets stuck! Oh noes!
  • Speaking of stuck, such is also the case with Ashton Kutcher (oozing smarm and smegma) and Lea Michele (clearly relishing the opportunity to play a grown-up – by which I mean sport her natural stankface while wearing a skintight red minidress and big-girl makeup). Lea plays a backup singer (which makes her different from Rachel because WE KNOW how Rachel feels about backup, amiright gays/teens/gay teens?) on her way to a big New Year’s Eve gig, while Ashton is just a big NYE-hating grinch. But then they get stuck in an elevator! Uh-oh! I hope she sings a mashup of “Rape in an Elevator” and “Auld Lang Douche”.
  • Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel have some funny moments as a pregnant couple preparing to peacefully welcome their first child – until they find out there’s a $25,000 cash prize for the first baby born after midnight. Thus begins a round of competitive baby-pooping-out between them and another couple (Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson) who also have their eyes on the dough. This segment is also amusing because Biel dons the most hilariously fake baby-bump cushion this side of Pregnancé.
  • Josh Duhamel is a rich party-boy who gets stuck when his car breaks down in rural New York on his way to a “very important meeting,” so he is forced to catch an RV ride with a colorful band of regular folks (among them Yeardley Smith) who show him how “the other half lives.” Um, don’t you mean the other 99%? #occupynewyearseve
  • Sarah Jessica Parker attempts to play a stylish Manhattan woman that is somehow not Carrie Bradshaw while trying to control her teen daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is determined to come of age whether her mom likes it or not. SJP is all like, “Oh, I don’t have any plans tonight,” and I was all, “Duh, just go to Miranda’s.”

And I think that’s it…? Anyway, these stories of romance, second chances, and races against the clock inevitably intersect, whether by accident or because it turns out everyone was related the whole time, etc. The “characters” are nothing more than the faintest sketches of human people that are only capable of repeatedly restating their motivations in the most basic possible terms. They’re like improv exercises but without any improv. “Okay, your motivation is that you’re responsible for the ball dropping, but then it gets stuck. Go!” “I have to make sure the ball drops.” “Right…” “What are we doing about that ball? I need to make sure it drops.” “Keep going.” “It’s my job. To make the ball drop.” [gunshot] “Was that the ball dropping?”

None of the actors do anything even beginning to resemble memorable work; some of them, such as Pfeiffer and De Niro, are downright depressing to see in this context. And even New York City itself looks like utter shit. This is not the Manhattan winter wonderland of, say, Home Alone 2; instead we get heaps of gray overcast ugliness (and, of course, the garishness of Times Square, which awkwardly combines real footage from last year’s NYE – as tipped off by a billboard for Julie Taymor’s execrable adaptation of The Tempest – along with a cleverly shoehorned-in billboard for the Sherlock Holmes sequel, which happens to open next Friday and shares a distributor with this film!).

But barrel fish-shooting aside, New Year’s Eve isn’t crushingly awful. It has a certain superficial euphoria to it, and moves along at a cheerfully brisk pace. Rom-com royalty director Garry Marshall reunites with his Valentine’s Day screenwriter Katherine Fugate, and they certainly seem to have established a slickly entertaining formula. And that’s all I have to say about that.

New Year’s Eve opens nationwide today.

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