Silver Screen: New Year’s Eve *
You almost need a scorecard to keep all the players in the saccharine Garry Marshall ensemble comedy New Year's Eve straight. I say “almost” because even though the film is nearly halfway over by the time it's done introducing all the new characters and their various one-note storylines, looking less like a film than some weird celebrity flash mob, you won't give near enough of a damn to even try to sort them out.
New Year's Eve is the pseudo-sequel to Marshall's Valentine's Day, which took a similar approach by feigning to examine the ups and downs of a national holiday through the intersecting stories of five dozen or so tangentially related characters. The trouble from the outset is that New Year's Eve isn't nearly as emotionally loaded and troublesome as V-Day, so the sentimentality feels extra forced. Nobody but Dick Clark cares this much about this second-string holiday. And while the film Valentine's Day nominally acknowledged that every now and again everything doesn't work out perfectly for everybody, New Year's Eve insists on providing every character with a grand redemption, no matter how improbable, and all framed by a voiceover narrative spouting platitudes so hollow and trite they'd get a Hallmark greeting-card writer fired on the spot.
And now, Brave Reader, let us delve into the film's massive cast, a collection of celebrities so immense the Scientologists probably set up a recruiting booth next to the Kraft Services table:
Michelle Pfeiffer is an executive assistant rendered dull and unglamorous by her workaholic boss and the fact that she's totally unbangable now that she's, like, over forty or something. She impulsively quits her job, then promises to give away her four tickets to the biggest concert event in town to optimistic bike messenger Zac Efron if he can fulfill her ten big New Year's resolutions. The big concert in question stars Jon Bon Jovi, or rather Bon Jovi playing a very Bon Jovified version of a one-named singer named Jensen, who is still reeling from the previous New Year's Eve when he proposed to his ice queen girlfriend Katherine Heigl (America's number-one ice queen since 2008!), then dumped her shortly thereafter. Efron is trying to convince his lovelorn best bud Ashton Kutcher to come to the party, but the former Mister Demi Moore is stuck in an elevator with Jensen's backup singer, Glee's Lea Michele.
Meanwhile, across town at a hospital, Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers are competing with another couple to see who can have their baby first in the new year and win a $25,000 prize, while just down the hall a dying Robert De Niro pleads with nurse Halle Berry to let him to go to the roof and see the ball drop one last time. The famous lighted ball, however, might not drop, not unless producer Hilary Swank can overcome a bevy of slapstick problems to get it back online, which would be great for youngster Abigail Breslin, who ran away to have her first kiss in Times Square and is pursued by her diligent but dateless mother, Sarah Jessica Parker, who may or may not be the secret dream girl of hunky millionaire Josh Duhamel.
And I'm leaving out hip-hop stars Ludacris and Common, Modern Family's Sofí a Vergara as a bubbly ethnic-stereotype best friend, hospital staff Carla Gugino and Cary Elwes, elevator repairman James Belushi, Matthew Broderick, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, comedians Russell Peters and Larry Miller, and Ryan Seacrest. And yes, the nurse who has exactly one line and whose face is on camera for less than five seconds was indeed Alyssa Milano.
If the quality of a movie was directly proportional to the number of famous people starring in it, New Year's Eve would be a shoe-in, except, of course, it's usually the other way around. The final product feels like watching the Golden Globes, yet somehow less compelling and more irrelevant.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.