Intersecting lives clash and collide in "New Year's Eve" but the only sparks that fly in this "Love Boat-esque" Garry Marshall directed film are when the famous Times Square ball pops a bulb and almost misses its grand descent. Marshall effectively drops the ball on this one, too, a retread of his other holiday Hallmark card comedy "Valentine's Day," only that was semi-bearable.
Filled with celebrity names to up the ante, "New Year's Eve" basically recycles the same formula as "V-Day" dicing up more plotlines than confetti. Hilary Swank is the newly promoted vice president of the Times Square Alliance; New Year's Eve could make or break her career. In a small and forgettable role in this storyline is Brendan (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), a New York City police officer enlisted to assist her, although you'll never really know why that's his job when most of New York's finest are on the street.
Michelle Pfeiffer is up next as Ingrid, a wallflower assistant to a record company executive, who picks New Year's Eve as the night to kick her bucket list. Pfeiffer's Ingrid isn't just dowdy she's downright dull. In another forced stretch to cross connect players in this Rubik's Cube, Ingrid enlists a courier (Zac Efron) who has been delivering her mail for years to help her realize her dreams. Efron as bicycle messenger Paul is the best thing about the film, which doesn't say much for the movie.
Also part of the record company mix is Jensen, a rock star (played by real life rock star Jon Bon Jovi who should take note not to quit his day job). Jensen is suffering over his break up with Laura, a caterer (played predictably by Katherine Heigl). It just so happens she's in charge of the record company party where he is the featured performer. Sofia Vagara is one of the brightest lights in the film as Laura's sous chef, and has some of the best lines in the film, stealing every scene she is in. "In my country when a man gets down on one knee, it's for two reasons: because he is proposing marriage or because he's been shot."
Josh Duhamel as Sam, the son of the record company's founder, is frantically trying to make it back to New York after attending a wedding in Connecticut. The wedding is non-essential since it only serves to put him in a predicament that he may not make it to New York in time for midnight, and there's someone from a serendipitous (that is the exact word used in the film to describe his plight) 2011 meeting who he has to meet at the stroke of midnight.
You lost yet?
Sarah Jessica Parker plays a costume dresser at Radio City Music Hall, and single mom to teen daughter, Hailey (Abigail Breslin). Hailey wants to spend New Year's Eve in Times Square puckered up for her first kiss, but doting mom wants the girl to spend the evening with her. Clichés anyone?
Jessica Biel also returns for a second go 'round after her performance in "Valentine's Day." This time she's a pregnant woman trying to have her baby at the stroke of midnight so she and her husband (Seth Myers) can win $25,000 from a local hospital. (Parents of kids in the audience at the screening I saw were forced to have to explain the meaning of va-jay-jay after a nurse wishes Biel and her va-jay-jay good luck.)
Ashton Kutcher returns from his star turn in "Valentine's Day," this time to play Randy, a comic book illustrator and holiday hater who gets stuck in an elevator with Elise, played by Lea Michele. "Glee" fans will be happy to note that Lea does sing in the movie, and more than once. Her updated rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" is sure to knock Mariah Carey's update of the old chestnut out of the pop holiday charts.
For the senior element, Robert DeNiro is a dying man who wants to see the ball drop one last time. Makes you wonder what happened to cabby Travis Bickle roaming Times Square in "Taxi Driver." "I'm sorry for the bad things I've done," DeNiro says in "New Year's Eve." Is he apologizing for his latest string of bad movie parts? Halle Berry is mere eye candy as his nurse who wants to grant him his final wish, but redeems herself in one of the film's few touching moments when she reveals where she'll be when the clock strikes midnight.
Screenwriter Katherine Fugate, who also wrote "Valentine's Day," did a much better job in the previous film of creating plot twists that yield some shred of surprise. Here, even cameo appearances bear no "wow" moments. Penny Marshall shows up in her brother's film as a partygoer demanding that a waitress fetch her more champagne. What, no beer? No Schlemiel? No Schlimazel?
Ryan Seacrest plays himself as host of the Times Square televised events. No stretch there. New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg puts in an appearance, and is sure to receive a different response from moviegoers than what would have been expected prior to Occupy Wall Street.
Marshall's "New Year's Eve" should have been a cinematic postcard that brought all of the excitement of spending New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square to the big screen. Instead, this romp is best treated as an old acquaintance that should be forgotten and never brought to mind.