New Year’s Eve
Celebrate 2012 a Month Early

Director Garry Marshall seems determined to make the American version of Love Actually, a multi-plotline romantic comedy that revolves around a particular holiday.  Last year he tried to do it with Valentine’s Day, but that movie ended up getting lost amidst a sea of characters that we just didn’t care about.  For New Year’s Eve, the action moves from Los Angeles to New York City so that an even more plentiful cast of characters that we only marginally care about can gather in Times Square and—hopefully—watch the ball drop.

Although a few of the same actors are back, New Year’s Eve is not a direct sequel to Valentine’s Day.  In fact, the returning actors play pretty much the exact opposites of the characters they played in last year’s movie.  Instead of a florist who is a big proponent of Valentine’s Day, Ashton Kutcher is an illustrator who absolutely hates the idea of New Year’s Eve; that is, until he gets stuck in the elevator with Lea Michele.  Jessica Biel is now an expectant mother, hoping to beat out another soon-to-be mother for the prize money that comes if theirs is the first baby born in the New Year.

Among the rest of the characters is Michelle Pfeiffer as a neurotic woman who hires Zac Efron’s bike messenger to help her complete all of her life’s New Year’s resolutions in one day, Hilary Swank is the woman in charge of making sure the ball drops without incident, and Josh Duhamel is a man hoping that the woman he met last year on New Year’s will keep their date at a pizza parlor. Meanwhile, Robert DeNiro is a dying man hoping to see the ball drop just one more time.  All of these plotlines and more are woven together leading up to that crucial hour of midnight when everyone hopes to have somebody to kiss.

Ashton Kutcher as Randy in New Year's EveThe first thing that struck me about New Year’s Eve was that they were celebrating the beginning of 2012.  Whereas this makes sense in terms of the movie’s release date, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe it would have made more sense to make the movie a nostalgia piece, thus increasing the movie’s staying power.  As it is, New Year’s Eve is going to be dated by January second.  No wonder it is coming out nearly a month before the actual holiday.  It is already distracting that, in some scenes, Times Square features advertisements for movies that came out over a year ago, while other scenes feature ads for movies that have yet to be released.  I can’t imagine a time when posters for both Tron Legacy and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows would occupy the same time and space, yet it happens in New Year’s Eve.

That’s more of an observation than a complaint about the actual movie, but there is plenty to complain about when it comes to the film itself.  For starters, there are just way too many characters and at times the movie is cutting much too rapidly between the various plotlines.  Also, most of these characters seem more like caricatures than actual people.  The biggest offender is Zac Efron, who uses the word “bro” far too often.  There are also a few speeches in the movie that are supposed to come off as heartwarming that instead feel disingenuous.  This trend continues in scenes where people in the movie react to events differently than I would expect any normal everyday person would react, making these scenes feel false.

The movie starts to redeem itself a little toward the end, however.  Although some characters are tied to a partner right from the start, there are others who spend the movie talking about their possible plans for midnight and there are a few that manage to hold on to that element of surprise.  It’s worth staying through the end credits as well, where the movie treats its audience to some outtakes, a once over-used feature that has been absent long enough that it is actually fun again.

Like Valentine’s DayNew Year’s Eve fails to even come close to being the second-coming of Love Actually or anywhere near the ballpark of the best movie ever to be named after a holiday, Groundhog Day, but it is just slightly better than its predecessor.  That may not be saying much, but fans of last year’s holiday movie will likely find something they like here, too.

New Year’s Eve is rated PG-13 for “language including some sexual references.”  This movie is designed for a wide audience, which means that it intentionally stays away from anything too objectionable.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of New Year’s Eve.