'New Year's Eve'

Andrew Schwartz/Warner Bros.

The star-studded holiday film from the makers of Valentine's Day falls flat.

Returning with the cast-of-thousands, multiple storyline approach they applied to the $110 million-earning Valentine's Day, Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate take on New Year's Eve, but this time the result proves to be as appealing and effervescent as a flute of flat champagne.

A remarkably maudlin affair that possesses scant evidence of Marshall's trademark brisk efficiency, the trite romantic comedy may technically take place on the last night of 2011, but it feels stuck at least 30 years in the past.

Despite the attempts of a sprawling all-star ensemble to lend their flimsy characters any sort of involving definition, the majority end up lost in the perpetual shuffle.

Using a potentially intriguing P.O.V. as its jump-off point -- the behind-the-scenes orchestrations leading up to the Times Square ball drop -- the film squanders many rich possibilities. Among them: Hilary Swank as the stressed-out, newly-promoted vp of the Times Square Alliance, responsible for making sure the big countdown goes off without a hitch; Robert De Niro as a terminal cancer patient determined to take in the action down in the street; Jon Bon Jovi as a rock star; and Katherine Heigl as the one he let get away who happens to be catering the bash at which he'll be performing.

Then there's Sarah Jessica Parker as a single mom having relationship problems with teenage daughter Abigail Breslin; and Lea Michele as a backup singer who finds herself stuck in her building's stalled elevator with a jerky neighbor (Ashton Kutcher).

Elsewhere, landing with a particular thud are a pair of strained plotlines -- one involving Michelle Pfeiffer and bike messenger Zac Efron and the other featuring Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers, and Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger as a pair of expectant couples vying to produce the first birth of the new year.

While on the subject of dropping the ball, in spite of Marshall's endeavors to keep them all in the air, Fugate's cavalcade of cliched characters never come convincingly together for a common cause -- instead their intertwined, forced stories play like a schmaltzy Altman.

Release date Dec. 9 (Warner Bros.)
Director Garry Marshall
Rated PG-13, 118 minutes

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