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)

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