Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher
RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language And Sexual References )
Official Website: http://newyearsevemovie.warnerbros.com/index.html
Opening Day: 8 December 2011
Synopsis: "New Year's Eve" celebrates love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts, in intertwining stories told amidst the pulse and promise of New York City on the most dazzling night of the year.
An all-star ensemble unite for ‘Pretty Woman’ director Garry Marshall’s ode to the most celebrated occasion of the entire year, but if the labyrinth of intersecting stories sounds familiar, that’s because Marshall and his writer Katherine Fugate were also responsible for the similarly-themed ‘Valentine’s Day’ back in 2010. Yet again, Marshall and Fugate juggle about a dozen storylines and twice as many characters over the course of a single day, with the events set at and around Times Square in New York City.
Adopting the same narrative formula however means that ‘New Year’s Eve’ will inevitably share some of the same flaws as their earlier film, and true enough there are the stock characters, the stilted dialogue and most of all the unabashed sentimentalising that made ‘Valentine’s Day’ a somewhat cringe-worthy affair. Nevertheless, Marshall has picked up more than a few lessons from ‘Valentine’s Day’- and besides being more polished, this latest holiday-themed confection also manages to hit the right schmaltzy notes, so much so that those looking for a movie that embraces the spirit of the season will undoubtedly find something to like about it.
We’ll not attempt to summarise all of the multiple plot threads criss-crossing throughout the movie- suffice to say that the more notable ones include Hilary Swank as the frazzled, newly promoted VP of the Times Square alliance whose task is to ensure the New Year’s countdown goes on smoothly; Katherine Heigl and Jon Bon Jovi as a pair of ex-lovers who almost got married a year ago before Bon Jovi’s rocker got the cold feet; Michelle Pfeiffer as a disgruntled office assistant who hires Zac Efron’s office courier to accomplish a list of resolutions; and- get this- two rival couples (Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel as one, Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson as the other) competing to have the year’s first baby for the congratulatory prize money.
Each of these individual plots don’t go beyond their single-description dilemmas above, but there is barely enough time to flesh them out as they are in between Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Halle Berry and Robert De Niro. Still, despite their lack of depth, Marshall knows exactly the purpose of each thread. With his trademark efficiency, he draws out the themes of second chances, forgiveness, reconciliation, hope and above all, love in all its myriad forms. Marshall doesn’t nuance his New Year’s messages, but arguably he doesn’t really need to considering how most of his audience are probably already in a generous enough mood for the year-end festive season.
No small feat it is however assembling such a powerhouse cast, especially since everyone gets no more than half an hour of screen time in total. Still, the actors seem to understand the constraints that such a profusion of characters will impose on their individual ones, and take it in their stride determined to have a good time. They know they are in a holiday movie, and nowhere is this more evident than in the outtakes, which reveal the jolly time they had on set (which you also shouldn’t miss for a hilarious quip by De Niro). If we had to pick a favourite among all the actors, we’d go with De Niro, his soliloquies as a dying cancer patient looking back at his past arrogant ways with regret surprisingly poignant.
There are also delightful cameos from ‘American Idol’ host Ryan Seacrest, who makes a sharp dig at Dick Clark, Marshall regular Hector Elizondo as a veteran lighting technician called in to save the countdown, Matthew Broderick as Swank’s boss, and even Mayor Michael Bloomberg drops in for the fun. It’s the very definition of a star-studded affair, but besides the star cameos, Marshall also gets some generous help from cinematographer Charles Minsky, who effectively recreates the atmosphere at Times Square using footage shot during last year’s countdown. It’s as close as one can get short of being on the scene, and the euphoria is simply infectious.
Indeed, there’s little point belabouring about the lack of plot or character in ‘New Year’s Eve’- you should already know what to expect from ‘Valentine’s Day’. Like its thematic predecessor however, it accomplishes what it sets out to do- that is, to spread the holiday cheer amidst these uncertain times of doom and gloom. There’s always room for hope, for faith, and for love- and even if you don’t remember which Hollywood star played what in the movie, these messages of the holiday season will still lift your spirits and put you in a jolly mood.
(Nothing more- and less- than a feel-good holiday movie for the season)
Review by Gabriel Chong