New Year's Eve - movie review
Who's saying what
If they ever got around to making a movie version of Who Magazine, chances are it’d look a lot like New Year’s Eve: packed with heavily airbrushed celebrities doing next to nothing while a constant stream of ads wafts gently by. Sure, Times Square is packed with billboards, but do we really need a slow zoom in on one advertising the upcoming Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows? Isn’t that what trailers are for?
It’s traditional to blame the rise of this kind of multi-story-carpark-style romance on Richard Curtis’ Love, Actually, which – like last year’s Valentine’s Day, which New Year’s Eve is basically a sequel to even if none of the characters carry over – featured a big cast of big names in a multitude of small roles. But a better comparison would be Cannonball Run or Airport ‘80: where Love, Actually at least seemed to be trying to make some kind of clumsy wider point about the many different facets of love, those earlier films just shoved as many big names onto the poster as they could. Yes, New Year’s Eve is the Cannonball Run of romance movies: just be grateful it’s not Cannonball Run II.
Like Valentine’s Day, everything here takes place over the course of one day. No prises for guessing which one. After an extremely corny opening voice-over claiming that “some say there’s no magic in the world – how then do you explain the world coming together on one night to celebrate the start of a new year?”, suggesting that this film takes place in a parallel world where China either doesn’t have it’s own calendar or flat-out doesn’t exist (who knows, maybe the Nazis won World War II here too), we meet the cast. There’s a lot of them; you might want to take notes.
In one storyline, Katherine Heigl is a chef catering for a record label party where her ex, a rocker named Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) is both singing and trying to woo her back; in another Hillary Swank is in charge of making sure the Time Square ball drops on time. The previously mentioned record label is also where downtrodden personal assistant Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) worked until she snapped, quit, and enlisted a bike courier (Zac Efron) to take her on a whirlwind tour of the city so she could do her increasingly impossible new year’s resolutions; meanwhile, Jensen’s back up singer (Lea Michele from Glee) gets stuck in a lift with NYE-hating humbug Randy (Aston Kutcher).
Across town two pregnant couples (including Jessica Biel and Sarah Paulson) battle to be the first to give birth in the new year and win $25,000 in some kind of bizarre hospital baby bonus lottery; a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) battles with her mum (Sarah Jessica Parker) for the right to go to Time Square; a man (Robert DeNiro) is dying in a hospital (presumably a different one, but who knows) with only a nurse (Halle Berry) for company; and Josh Duhamel is wearing an old tux and trying to get back to the city to meet up with a woman he let slip away last new year’s eve. Throw in a bunch of minor cameos who don’t get their own storylines– Alyssa Milano! Jim Belushi! Matthew Broderick! – and you’re pretty much up to speed.
There are benefits to this kind of rapid-cut storytelling. For one, all the constant moving around provides the illusion that something is actually happening, whereas if the film actually stayed on one character for five minutes you’d realise that not only is pretty much everyone here lacking the depth we usually associate with a sheet of photocopy paper, but in many cases CGI effects have been used to give them the glossy sheen we also associate with photocopy paper. Seriously, there’s one close up of Heigl that wouldn’t have been out of place in the upcoming all-CGI Tintin, so insanely flawless is the sheen added to her skin. Maybe this film’s parallel world also has replicants? That might explain Lea Michele’s performance.
Having everyone speak entirely in fluent exposition does help push the many, many stories forward at a steady pace; it also results in deathless prose like “not only are our napkins eco-friendly, but this will be our biggest A-list party ever!” and “that’s what new year’s eve is all about! Getting a second chance!”. And not about getting drunk and making out with a stranger. Fortunately, just in case the leaden dialogue doesn’t smack you around the head hard enough, there’s not one but two Bon Jovi tracks to further underline the amazing power of new year’s eve. Sadly, neither is ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’, as that would provide the audience with two firm alternatives to sitting through this.
Pretty Woman aside, director Garry Marshall (who also directed Valentine’s Day) hasn’t exactly shined as a movie director, so perhaps a better guide to what to expect here is his early producing work on such classics as Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley. He’s not afraid to go broad and he’s not afraid to go schmaltzy; DeNiro’s dying wish is to go up on the roof so he can see the Time Square ball drop, which even in a movie called New Year’s Eve is about as subtle as… well, everything else going on here. Though special mention must be made of Sofia Vergara’s clevage-baring kitchen hand who says lines like “Do you think Jensen will sign a banana? I don’t have any paaaaaper” in a clichéd Mexican accent. At least the Mexican gardener in Adam Sandler’s Jack & Jill got to say “just keeeding” after his dodgy jokes.
Still, when Marshall’s simply trying to be funny he occasionally hits the mark, and the inevitable pairing off of characters for the romance-packed climax does contain a few surprises. But the only possible reason to see this film is to check out all the big name stars as they scurry around for a handful of minutes at a time, their star status measured by how rarely they appear on-camera with the other big names. The bigger the star, the less likely they’d have time to film scenes with anyone else; if they don’t have the time for this film, why should you?
- One star
New Year’s Eve opens in cinemas on Thursday, December 8.
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