New Year’s Eve * * 1/2

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Director: Garry Marshall

Writer: Katherine Fugate

Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, Ludacris, Hector Elizondo,

Running Length: 118 minutes

Synopsis: The lives of several couples and singles in New York intertwine over the course of New Year’s Eve.

Review: Garry Marshall is back at the helm of yet another film in the ensemble cast genre after last year’s Valentine’s Day, and ups the ante this time by including even more celebrities (with some repeat appearances) and tackling a holiday far more ubiquitous than Valentine’s Day. However, the same problems that plagued Valentine’s Day resurfaces in New Year’s Eve – there are just too many things going on for one movie to address, and the result is a film that lacks focus and meat.

Although much of the film takes place around Times Square, the story involving Hilary Swank and the Times Square countdown isn’t as central as the story featuring Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer. The checking off of Pfeiffer’s wishlist is an intriguing premise, but unfortunately the film simply doesn’t spend enough time to develop it further and to give it a satisfactory conclusion. The same can be said of every single storyline that develops (or more accurately, fails to develop) in the movie, and it’s tempting to imagine how much better New Year’s Eve could have been if at least half of the plots were cleaved off, and the remainder given a fairer share of the screen time.

Since most of the star wattage is simply used to power interest for the movie, a lot of the actors have roles that amount to nothing more than glorified cameos, and no one is really needed to showcase much thespian ability. The script does give pause for a few Oscar alumni to emote, but many of the scenes just feel too contrived to be able to wring much genuine emotion out from the audience. And though I am usually pretty tolerant of product placement in movies, New Year’s Eve does take it to a level so extreme that it borders on absurdity (yes, I’m looking at you, Nivea).   

As fluffy entertainment, New Year’s Eve is certainly qualified for the role. For anyone who enjoys spotting celebrity cameos the film definitely ticks all the boxes. However, the film is not as interesting as it thinks it is, and the mawkish sentimentality that pervades much of the movie actually hurts the film and take it down a notch further. It’s not a bad movie, for sure, and certainly better than Valentine’s Day, but still it barely manages to score a passing grade.

P.S. To make it the most bang for your buck, make sure to sit through the first half of the end credit sequence to catch some genuinely funny outtakes.

Rating: ** ½ (out of four stars)


The Muppets * * *

Genre: Comedy / Musical

Director: James Bobin

Writers: Jason Segel & Nicholas Steger, based on characters created by Jim Henson

Cast: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones

Running Length: 103 minutes

Synopsis: On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. Will the Muppets be able to band together and save the theater in time?

Review: It’s sad but true – while most children will still recognize the Muppets, they are no longer as culturally relevant as back in the 70s and 80s. Anyone who is above the age of 30, however, will likely have fond memories of watching The Muppets Show or Sesame Street during the formative years of their lives (myself included, of course). As such, although The Muppets is positioned as a movie for the young ones, the adult viewers are likely to be the ones who will find themselves enjoying the movie (and riding the incessant waves of nostalgia). It’s still a fun watch for the kids, for sure, but there’s no doubt the older audiences are the ones who will be able to tap into the emotional centre of the film.

It’s not exactly a sophisticated plot, and the human actors aren’t given much to do. However, in the same vein as the older Muppets movies, The Muppets is chock-full of cameo appearances, and it’s quite fun to spot all the stars that appear in the film. Also, the fourth wall is repeatedly broken in the movie in amusing ways, which again is a nod to the history of the Muppets, on both the small and big screen.

Although positioned as a musical, there really aren’t that many songs and performances to truly classify The Muppets as a true musical. In fact, after the first reel, which does feature a number of decent song and dance performances, director James Bobin seems to divert his attention elsewhere, resulting in sporadic songs that feel increasingly at odds with the rest of the movie. However, of the 9 songs featured, 3 are classic Muppets songs, which will definitely be familiar to anyone who has grown up with the Muppets.

Despite its imperfections, The Muppets is great fun both for newcomers to the franchise and “old-timers”, and is certainly an excellent choice for families during this holiday. Who knows – with this reinvigoration, it may represent a new era for The Muppets, moving them back into the limelight, which would not be a bad thing at all.

Rating: *** (out of four stars)