New Year's Eve
A ‘New Year’s’ resolution - avoid this star-filled movie
"New Year’s Eve’’ is fun in the way that eating at a buffet is fun. It’s two hours of foods that have nothing to do with each other piled high on a plate because it was too cheap to resist. You don’t need hot wings, creamed spinach, oysters, and flan at the same time. But there they all are, so why not? It’s the same with the stars here. Hilary Swank and Ludacris? Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron? Sarah Jessica Parker and Abigail Breslin? Ryan Seacrest and Mayor Michael Bloomberg? These seem like secret Santa pairings. Warner Bros. knows they don’t make sense together, but shoved alongside each other - and Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Josh Duhamel, too - they will make money.
The director Garry Marshall and his screenwriter, Katherine Fugate, have simply moved their previous concoction - last year’s “Valentine’s Day’’ - from Los Angeles to New York City, where nearly every plot revolves around the lowering of the ball in Times Square. Marshall and Fugate mean to make us laugh at Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers as a couple in a race to give birth to the first baby of the new year before Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger do. They mean to make us go “aww’’ once after Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher find themselves stuck together in an elevator and again by forcing a crusty, mumbling Robert De Niro to spend the movie so near death that he can’t even seem to appreciate the fact that his nurse is Halle Berry.
Both “New Year’s Eve’’ and “Valentine’s Day’’ blithely exploit our gluttony for famous people and special occasions with extra-strength celebrity overlap. But watching these movies, especially the new one, you’re reminded that not all stars and celebrities are equal. So while Sofia Vergara steals her scenes as her usual vivacious, randy, ornately accented self, you wonder why she’s stuck being Heigl’s sous chef and why Ludacris’s sole job, as an NYPD officer, is to provide Swank moral support. There’s also the fact that the movie’s greatest actor, De Niro, is required to give the film’s worst performance and that poor Alyssa Milano appears to languish at the bottom of a movie that, 20 years ago, might have starred her. (No, I can’t believe I just typed “De Niro’’ and “Alyssa Milano’’ in the same sentence, either.)
“New Year’s Eve’’ is a touch more cynical than its mushy but much cleverer predecessor. Marshall is an occupational Californian but a New Yorker by temperament, and, even though this movie fails to muster a single arresting shot of the city, it does - in the more jaded characters and opportunistic acts - bear traces of its spirit. There is, for instance, a snuck-in shot of a Times Square poster for Warner Bros.’ upcoming Sherlock Holmes sequel. It ultimately doesn’t matter. The entire movie melts into goo.
There’s also a reel of outtakes. Why do movies show us these? All they do is say, “You’ve been had,’’ “It was funny to us,’’ or “A film by Brett Ratner.’’ Here, the bloopers and unused footage said that “New Year’s Eve’’ is even drearier than I thought. De Niro stops drooping and turns virile to mock Cary Elwes, who plays his doctor. And Carla Gugino, who plays an obstetrician, reaches between Biel’s legs, pulls out two DVDs of “Valentine’s Day,’’ and says you’ve got twins. It’s cruel that none of that bonkers energy is in the actual movie. But Dr. Gugino does manage to suggest what a better, crazier Mel Brooks parody might be called: “Labor Day.’’