An acquaintance best forgotten
New Year’s Eve
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Halle Berry, Jon Bon Jovi, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, Seth Meyers, Sofia Vergara. Screenplay by Katherine Fugate. Directed by Garry Marshall. 118 minutes, rated M (coarse language). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua, Light House Pauatahanui. I have spent December 31 in a mud pit as the heavens opened on a Paihia campground, I have spent it bedridden with a bug as my mates hit the town, and have watched the girl I fancied kiss another dude at midnight – but my worst New Year’s Eve is easily New Year’s Eve.
Director Garry Marshall has spent 20 years trying to recapture the humour and romance that made Pretty Woman a smashing fairy tale but with diminishing returns. New Year’s Eve repeats the formula of his Valentine’s Day from earlier this year – itself a soulless, calculated stab at Love Actually success – where a large, vanilla cast endure endless contrivances and cliches on their way to neatly encapsulating the true meaning of the festivity in question.
It’s December 31 and rock star Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi, struggling to play himself) is in town to perform at Times Square and a swanky corporate function. Catering the latter is his ex (Katherine Heigl), whom Jensen walked out on a year earlier. One of his backup singers ( Glee’s Lea Michele) gets stuck in the lift with a New Year hater ( Ashton Kutcher), whose party- loving flatmate (Zac Efron) is employed by a meek, middle-aged Michelle Pfeiffer to assist her with her bucket list.
About to kick the proverbial is Robert De Niro, who is stuck in a hospital bed but desperate to see the ball drop at Times Square one last time. Meanwhile former Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin is desperate to reach the party to kiss a boy, but her mum (Sarah Jessica Parker) won’t let her.
Hilary Swank, Josh Duhamel and two horrible couples trying to score $25,000 by having the first baby born after midnight also slot into the story web.
It would seem movies set around calendar events can either be calculated rom-com piffle or an excuse for a nut-job to run amok, gutting the rest of the cast – think Halloween, April Fools’ Day ( 1986), Silent Night, Deadly Night. After about 10 minutes I wished this one had gone the other way.
The trouble with New Year’s Eve is, despite Marshall and writer Katherine Fugate stringing together every tired scenario imaginable to mine poignancy, there isn’t a sincere beat to be had.
The sentiments of love, hope, new beginnings and forgiveness expressed by the two-dimensional characters are the cheap platitudes you’d find in a $2 greeting card, while Marshall appears desperate to ensure New York officially replaces Disneyland as the happiest place on earth – and usurps Hogwarts as the most magical. The only true wonders are how quickly characters are able to get from one landmark to another, and that not one character in the movie gets drunk. The Big Apple has rarely tasted so plastic.
Perhaps all this plays better with the Yanks. I mean, Times Square looks like a fun party central and all, but the way Marshall tries to frame the annual ball drop, you’d think it was the second coming of Christ descending not a giant globe of light.
Bum note: Jon Bon Jovi rocks Times Square in New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, the movie has about as much edge or vitality as his music.