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Returning with the cast-of-thousands, multiple storyline approach they applied to Valentine’s Day, Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate take on New Year’s Eve, but this time out 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.
While Warner Bros. could still ring in some decent numbers, the tally will likely fall well short of the $110 million enticed by Valentine’s Day.
Using a potentially intriguing p.o.v. as its jump-off point—the behind-the-scenes orchestrations leading up to the annual Times Square ball drop—the film squanders many rich possibilities as it flits indifferently from story to story and character to character.
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 big 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 back-up 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 as a meek, mousy office assistant who enlists the aid of bike messenger Zac Efron to help her realize a bucket list of unfulfilled resolutions.
The other features Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers and Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger as a pair of expectant couples who face off in a fierce battle to take home the hospital’s $25,000 prize awarded to the first birth of the new year.
They mainly succeed in inducing groans.
To add to all the fun, the glittering countdown ball has gotten stuck during a run-through, much to the displeasure of Swank, not to mention Ryan Seacrest who gripes that it wouldn’t have happened to Dick Clark.
While on the subject of dropping the ball, in spite of Marshall’s endeavors to keep them all in the air, Fulgate’s cavalcade of cliched characters never come convincingly together for a common cause.
Ultimately, their intertwined, forced stories play out like schmaltzy Altman.
Only Halle Berry manages to mine some honest gravity as a night nurse who has a poignant celebration lined up come midnight, but, like so many of the performances in the distancing, incohesive New Year’s Eve, it felt like it came from a completely separate movie.
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