Sunday, January 1, 2012

Movie Review: New Year's Eve

Genre: romantic comedy
Director: Garry Marshall
Rating: ** (2 of out 5)

I never like romantic comedies. Ever since When Harry Met Sally revived the “rom com” genre in 1989, Hollywood has been churning out one cookie-cutter chick flick after another. The too-cute-by-half leading lady baton has been passed from Meg Ryan to Sandra Bullock, then to Kate Hudson and now Katherine Heigl.

New Year's Eve by Gary Marshall

And I despise all “ensemble cast” movies. They invariably end up being a patchwork of cameo appearances by B-list celebrities, stitched together by an improbable plot (if there is one at all). Like a Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet, they are quantity over quality.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect storm of these two evils. It is director Garry Marshall's second act following his box office hit Valentine's Day in 2010. Together, the two movies form the beginning of what I call Marshall’s “Hallmark holiday series” destined for the discount bin at HMV. Here's two of my suggestions for Marshall's next projects: Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day.

Katherine Heigl opposite Bon Jovi

So many things have gone wrong in the movie. For starters, Bon Jovi can’t act to save his life. The relationship between teenage heartthrob Zac Efron and much older Michelle Pfeiffer borders on disturbing and makes you look away. Lea Michele forgets she is no longer on the Glee set and suddenly breaks into song while stuck in an elevator with Ashton Kutcher who drifts in and out of character. Then there is Robert De Niro trying his best to keep a straight face playing a cancer patient on his deathbed wallowing in regret and self-loathing. Wait a minute, isn’t this supposed to be a comedy? And what did he do to drive his family away and end up dying in the hospital alone on new year’s eve? We don’t know and we really don't care.

Robert De Niro opposite Halle Berry
As much as we love to hate Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress can carry a scene. Here, she plays an over-protective single mother and is the only convincing character in the film. Hilary Swank pulls off well as vice president of the Times Square Alliance in charge of the sacred new year's eve ball drop, a welcome respite from her usual trailer-trash roles. Her three-minute speech to console disappointed revelers after the ball drop temporarily fails marks the high point of a movie full of low ones. Looking directly at the camera, Swank reminds us that new year's eve is a time to reflect and redeem, forget and forgive. A fair point, but not one that takes 118 minutes of sap to make.

Like Valentine’s Day, New Year's Eve is predictable kitsch. I watched it because it was new year’s day and I had nothing else better to do. The movie turned out not nearly as bad as I thought; it was even sweet at times. And it got me out of the house.

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