'New Year's Eve' Should Be Forgot
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
You've heard the term "star vehicle"? Well, "New Year's Eve," a sort of follow-up to the similarly conceived "Valentine's Day," is what you might call a jackknifed truck resulting in a 25-star-vehicle pileup caused, if I may extend the cheesy metaphor further, by a mountain of horse manure dropping in the middle of the expressway.
What makes the multiple-narrative film a slew of unconnected (or are they? No, of course they aren't!) individuals finding love and joy and hope on the titular pre-holiday evening isn't that nothing that occurs therein bears the slightest connection either to life as it is lived or even subjectively perceived. There are plenty of good and even great movies that boast no such connection. No, the issue is that "New Year's Eve," written by Katherine Fugate and directed by Garry Marshall (who were also responsible for "Valentine's Day"), replaces experience and perception, not to mention genuine wit and emotion, with a lot of dribbling, prefab cheery sub-mediocrity. "How do you explain the entire world coming together one night to celebrate the hope ..." That's just the opening voice-over.
Then begins the parade of names enacting scenarios designed to specifically humiliate them. Here's Michelle Pfeiffer in a more drab version of the Laura Linney part in "Love Actually," enlisting Zac Efron to fulfill her bucket list without the bucket! Here's Josh Duhamel made up to look like Ryan Seacrest in a movie that also features Ryan Seacrest! Here's Ashton Kutcher playing a version of a Brooklyn hipster who protests that his cynicism is "a core tenant of my being." (I imagine the line was written differently, but that's how he says it; I swear.) Here's Sofia Vergara, for some reason being positioned by her agent for the lead in a Charo biopic that's never going to be made. Here's Halle Berry sitting by the bedside of a dying Robert De Niro, and every time he comes out of his stupor to look at her, I keep expecting/hoping he'll say, "Hey, weren't you in 'Monster's Ball'?" (Instead, he looks at her and says, "All the mistakes I've made," which proved the biggest laugh line of the screening I attended.) Here's that Jon Bon Jovi character, playing a super-popular and seemingly omnipresent (no, seriously, he travels from Times Square to the Brooklyn Museum in about three seconds) rock star named Jensen, which I kept hearing as "Jandek," because that was more amusing and, believe me, I needed amusement. And there's more, so much more, but, really, you should discover it yourself. But not in a theater. No, if there was ever a film that cried out for a DVD screening party where you and your friends could try out your "Mystery Science Theater 3000" chops, this is it.
Ridicule will also help you ignore the movie's not-too-deeply buried contempt for its core demo audience. There's a nasty bit in a party scene in which Penny Marshall, the director's sister, lavishes sarcasm on a waitress who never did her a bit of harm, asking, "Are you an actress?" before putting the attractive young woman in her place. Um, Penny, you're old-school showbiz, so you know the one about only being as good as the last thing you did, right? Well, the last thing I saw you doing was sitting as far away as possible from Cindy Williams at an autograph table at the Chiller Theater Expo in Secaucus, N.J. So yeah, Penny, laugh it up.
As for brother Garry, he wrote a memoir called "Wake Me When It's Funny," and I reckon by those lights he's been in a coma since doing that cameo in "Lost in America." Which isn't to say there aren't further inadvertent laughs in the movie: The notion that any native New Yorker gives a toss about the Times Square ball-dropping is a good one. As is the Mike Bloomberg cameo, which is likely to play a little differently in the post-Occupy Wall Street atmosphere than was anticipated back when it was shot.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.