16 December 2011


Clocking in at seven minutes shorter than last year's abominable ensemble romcom Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve also proved to be considerably less damaging to my brain, senses and face than its thematic predecessor. Director Garry Marshall rounds up every star he knows for another round of une film de Happy Madison, where everybody's having fun, and more importantly, everybody's getting paid. Except for the audience, of course.

Moving away from the previous film's compulsive February 14th ramblings, this one takes place, as you might expect, on December 31st. In New York City, all eyes are on the ball in Times Square, awaiting a magical midnight moment that may never come, if a mechanical fault cannot be corrected before the clock strikes twelve. But inside and around this story, famous faces all over the city are rushing around and trying to make sure that they end 2011 on a high, including record company secretary Ingrid, who hires bicycle courier Paul to help her complete her New Year's resolutions from the year gone by, before time runs out.

The film is not, by many measures, any less sickly than Valentine's Day, but it does get some things right. You'll have heard rumblings about Will and Bill, the gay krill in Happy Feet Two, and the way in which those characters are so ancillary to the plot that it seems like they were devised for a movie of their own, before being packaged with the dancing penguins. Having not seen Happy Feet Two, I couldn't comment, but that's how I felt about the plot between Ingrid and Paul, played by Michelle Pfieffer and Zac Efron. It makes full use of the buckets of charisma that Efron brings to the table, and it's good to see Pfieffer back on screen, reprising her Selina Kyle from the first act of Batman Returns.

This plot is so nice and so sweet that I was genuinely sad that they managed to fuck it up anyway. It's far too cushioned by complicatedly uncomplicated interweaving plotlines to really register, especially once midnight rolls around and the myriad storylines begin to combust for a series of awkward and contrived conclusions. I could go into all of those subplots, but we haven't got all year. Instead, let's pick on the stories of the characters played by Hilary Swank and Robert De Niro. De Niro never even has to get out of bed, such is the lack of effort in his performance here, and the final convergence of these storylines make Swank's workaholic character appear to be the most unfeeling twat in the world.

Similarly to Valentine's Day, this collision of storylines is often intended to pull the rug out from under you. No, I didn't guess which of the film's female stars would wind up being the woman that Josh Duhamel is racing to meet, but the crucial difference is, there's no possible way to have guessed even if I had given two craps about this "twist". They go to extremes to make sure you don't guess these endings, to the point where it's unbelievable once it does unfold. At its most absurd, the script crowbars in a cloying nod to America's armed forces overseas that comes completely out of nowhere, and is never mentioned again.

I'm also really not sure why they didn't make this Christmas Eve instead, except for how it doesn't need to be any more obviously a rip-off of Love, Actually. But the problem with using New Year's Eve is that you can insist it's magical all you like- and believe me, they try- but these all feel like definitions forced by the film. There are many monologues quantifying the symbolism of one year ending and another beginning, none more annoying than their lovey-dovey counterparts in the previous film, but it's reaching, even for something this contrived. Shove Ashton Kutcher in a lift with Lea Michele, but I still can't and won't believe that New Year's cynics just need a little love in their lives, any more than I can believe that Kutcher is a cartoonist who can't get laid.

Given just how many of the cast Zac Efron turns out to be related to, in some way or another, it's all the more odd that New Year's Eve doesn't push his sweet subplot with Michelle Pfieffer to the forefront. This is another misjudged, WASPish ensemble romcom in precisely the same vein as Valentine's Day. There are those aforementioned strokes that make it more palatable than Marshall's previous sick-bucket of a movie, but largely, it's another contrived, overlong movie that pontificates far too much, and provokes far too little sympathy or entertainment.

New Year's Eve is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen New Year's Eve, why not share your comments below? Robert Downey Jr. should probably have been credited in this movie. The audacious plugging of Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows occurs so frequently that Downey appears in the movie more than De Niro.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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