New Year’s Eve

Cast:
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid
Zac Efron as Paul
Robert de Niro as Stan Harris
Halle Berry as Nurse Aimee
Cary Elwes as Stan’s Doctor
Common as Soldier
Jessica Biel as Tess Byrne
Seth Myers as Giffin Byrne
Sarah Paulson as Grace Schwab
Til Schwiger as James Schwab
Carla Gugino as Dr. Morriset
Katherine Heigl as Laura
Jon Bon Jovi as Jensen
Sofia Vergara as Ava
Russell Peters as Chef Sunil
Ashton as Kutcher as Randy
Lea Michele as Elise
Sarah Jessica Parker as Kim
Abigail Breslin as Hailey
Josh Duhamel as Sam
Sean O’Bryan as Pastor Edwin
Larry Miller as Harley
Jack McGee as Grandpa Jed
Yeardley Smith as Maude
Cherry Jones as Mrs. Rose Ahern
Hilary Swank as Claire Morgan
Ludacris as Brendan
Rob Nagle as Officer Nolan
Hector Elizondo as Kominsky

Review:
Another year, another holiday, another opportunity for Garry Marshall to turn all the innovation of Robert Altman and P.T. Anderson and the like into dreary, commercial crap.

The spiritual successor to last year’s “Valentine’s Day,” as the title probably gives away, this year’s version takes place on “New Year’s Eve,” weaving in and out of the lives of several overdone melodramatic vignettes. There’s a general idea of using New Year’s as a time of renewal to focus on several different individuals in their vaguely intertwined stories.

Deep breath… there’s New Year’s Eve hating Randy (Ashton Kutcher) and Elise (Lea Michelle) who get trapped in an old elevator, keeping her from making her gig as a back-up singer for pop star Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi). Which might not matter because Jensen is so hung up on chef Laura (Katherine Heigl) that he can’t find it in him to perform, potentially skipping out on the record label party which Randy’s roommate Paul (Zac Efron) is desperately trying to win tickets to from a lonely secretary (Michelle Pfeiffer). Also, the woman in charge of making sure the Times Square New Year’s party (Hilary Swank) comes off without a hitch is slowly coming unraveled because naturally the ball won’t work, which may keep dying cancer patient Sam (Robert De Niro) from seeing one last ball drop like he wants and a pair of expectant parents race each other to produce the first baby of the new year and win some prize money. Phew!

But that’s not really what it is at all. Just as with the previous version the real point of “New Year’s Day” is to spit movie stars out at the audience as rapidly as possibly, with a little bit of comedy and light drama, and provide as much entertainment or value as a bad sitcom. Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering Marshall’s background in TV but shows exactly how much effort is being put forth.

Just as before, most of the stories are self contained with actors being brought in for their moments and then sent off as soon as they’re done. They’re effectiveness ranges from mildly convincing (Swank) to simply bored (Kutcher) and it’s easy to relate. There’s very little for any of them to do either in the drama or the comedy department, because “New Year’s Eve” aims at being little besides a bad holiday TV special. The handful of actors who seem to really enjoy that sort of haminess (most notably sexpot sous chef Sofia Vergara) pull it off, but everyone else is lost as best.

Marshall attempts to get around that by flying through his scenes at the greatest of speeds, piling one vignette into another like some sort of tragic freeway mash-up. The humor is camp enough that it can almost survive that sort of thing, but whenever “New Year’s Eve” attempts to shift gears into drama it ends up with nothing but schmaltz.

Not that anyone will be surprised by that. “New Year’s Eve” is certainly not trying to be anything more than a delivery system for well-known actors and bland punch lines and in that it succeeds, but just because you aim solidly for the middle doesn’t mean hitting your target is much of a success.

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