New Year's Eve (2011)
Robert de Niro and Halle Berry in "New Year's Eve."
Cold, Claustrophobia and Confetti: What Fun
“New Year’s Eve” is a depressing two-hour infomercial pitching Times Square as the only place in the universe you want to be when the ball drops at midnight on Dec. 31. (Believe me, it’s not.)
When that magic moment arrives, oh-so-many stars converge in a downpour of confetti, although I must warn you that the “Jersey Shore” crowd and the Real Housewives are not among the chosen.
In this cynical makeover of one of the most stressful nights of the year, no one is visibly drunk or shivering in the cold, and except for a few friendly officers, the police presence is minimal. In homage to V-J Day photos taken in Times Square, some of the kisses exchanged as the year changes are of the back-bending kind. Unctuous platitudes about its being a time of forgiveness and new beginnings regularly stall the movie in its tracks.
“New Year’s Eve” was directed by Garry Marshall (best known for “Pretty Woman”) from a screenplay by Katherine Fugate. Last year the same team gave us the similarly unendurable “Valentine’s Day.” Like its forerunner, “New Year’s Eve” interweaves more than a half-dozen trivial subplots into a cheerlessly cheery mosaic. The screenplay isn’t written so much as assembled in carefully slotted little blocks, following the rules of a screenwriting textbook.
The most dramatic fragment involves an electrical glitch in which the crystal sphere gets stuck during a trial run. If it isn’t fixed in time, Claire (Hilary Swank), the officious new vice president of the Times Square Alliance, will lose her job.
Wan comedy is squeezed out of the competition between two couples for a $25,000 prize to be given to the pair that produces their hospital’s first baby of 2012. Meanwhile, a rock star, Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), while preparing for a concert, is being punished by his former fiancée, Laura (Katherine Heigl), for having backed out of their commitment a year earlier. Mr. Bon Jovi can’t act but he offers decent performances of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “Have a Little Faith in Me.”
Another cutesy piece involves Randy (Ashton Kutcher), a sarcastic comic-book artist who gets stuck in a stalled elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), one of Jensen’s backup singers whom he offends by asking her if she is a groupie. There is the tired story of Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker), an overprotective mom who refuses to let her 15-year-old daughter, Hailey (Abigail Breslin), go to Times Square to collect her first kiss from a dewy high school crush.
The hunk factor is supplied by Sam (Josh Duhamel), whose highway mishap on the way to the city nearly prevents him from reuniting with a dream girl he met the previous New Year’s Eve; they promised to reconnect a year later at the same restaurant. But will she show up?
This is an affair not to remember. It vies for the title of most fatuous subplot with the story of Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), the former assistant to a record company president, who strikes a deal with Paul (Zac Efron), a bike messenger. If he can make the impossible dreams on her wish list come true, she will give him her tickets to a New Year’s masked ball.
“New Years Eve” visits Radio City Music Hall and the Queens Museum of Art. It brings in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Ryan Seacrest, and Frank Sinatra is heard singing “New York, New York.” The New Yorkers in this film are predominantly white, middle-to-upper-class Manhattanites, and there is no hardship in sight. The most prominent African-American is a selfless nurse (Halle Berry) who cares for Stan (Robert De Niro) a grizzled photojournalist dying of cancer. Stan’s final wish (I’m not kidding!) is to watch from a hospital roof as the ball drops.
My advice: don’t believe the hype. Having been there — once — I would nominate Times Square as the last place on earth where most sensible people would want to be when the clock strikes midnight. At home asleep with your head under a pillow to blot out the noise is a much cozier alternative.
“New Year’s Eve” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Some mild innuendo and scattered profanity.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Garry Marshall; written by Katherine Fugate; director of photography, Charles Minsky; edited by Michael Tronick; music by John Debney; production design by Mark Friedberg; costumes by Gary Jones; produced by Mike Karz, Wayne Rice and Mr. Marshall; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes.
WITH: Halle Berry (Nurse Aimee); Jessica Biel (Tess Byrne); Jon Bon Jovi (Jensen); Abigail Breslin (Hailey); Chris Bridges, a k a Ludacris (Brendan); Robert De Niro (Stan Harris); Josh Duhamel (Sam); Zac Efron (Paul); Hector Elizondo (Kominsky); Katherine Heigl (Laura); Ashton Kutcher (Randy); Seth Meyers (Griffin Byrne); Lea Michele (Elise); Sarah Jessica Parker (Kim); Michelle Pfeiffer (Ingrid); Til Schweiger (James Schwab); Hilary Swank (Claire Morgan); and Sofia Vergara (Ava).