Warner Bros. // 2011 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // June 13th, 2012
Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve is the perfect example of a movie the world just doesn't need. The follow-up to 2010's disappointing romantic comedy Valentine's Day doesn't bring anything new to the table, focusing instead on a large group of mostly A-list actors (and a rock star) struggling with terrible dialogue in some of the most superficial roles they've ever come across. We've been there and seen that too many times already, and frankly, we've had enough. If you ever made a New Year's resolution not to waste your time watching unnecessary movies, now it's time to act on it.
Much like its predecessor, New Year's Eve follows a bunch of singles and couples whose lives will intertwine over the course of New Year's Eve. That's all there is to it, really.
In a nutshell, New Year's Eve is just another flick desperately trying to rip off Richard Curtis' wonderful ensemble comedy Love Actually. Whereas the latter sprung from a clever script boasting engaging characters, witty, emotional dialogue and a whole series of truly delightful moments celebrating the ups and downs of love and romance, this blatantly copies the same structure and style without giving much thought to story or proper character development.
Indeed, Katherine Fugate's script lacks both passion and direction, focusing on a large group of random people as they gear up to celebrate the last night of the year in the heart of New York City. Making it its mission to teach audiences that being love in such times of celebration is just so much more rewarding than being alone, the film predictably forces happy feelings and good fortune on each of the characters just in time for the Times Square ball drop. As expected, the majority of the relationships we get to see unfold on the screen feel overblown and simplistic, and the many attempts at light humor fall flat throughout.
You would think that spreading many little stories across the plot would at least keep the film's pace moving swiftly enough, but at the end of the day, New Year's Eve still drags here and there, making it quite a difficult mission for viewers to sit through the long 118 minutes without wanting to throw in the towel. Who could blame them? After all, there's barely anything remotely compelling or entertaining about these characters' plans and encounters on this fairly ordinary December 31st.
Whereas Katherine Heigl's character Laura still has trouble getting over a botched romance with a famous rocker (Jon Bon Jovi) who first proposed and then suddenly bolted, Michelle Pfeiffer's insecure secretary Ingrid struggles to get through a list of resolutions from the previous year. Robert De Niro is lying on his deathbed desperately trying to convince the nurses to let him watch the ball drop from the hospital roof, and Ashton Kutcher gets stuck in an elevator with Lea Michele. Hillary Swank's character is forced to solve a technical issue with the big ball itself, while not too far away, two couples are racing to give birth so they can score the hospital's cash prize for the first baby born in the new year.
This is a film dealing with people whose cliched problems are supposed to be touching and witty, but no matter what way you look at it, there's absolutely no substance behind their so-called troubles. I mean, what's so compelling about watching Abigail Breslin rebel against a protective mother (Sarah Jessica Parker) who's too scared to let her daughter have a fun night out? Or what's the point of having an annoying Sofia Vergara run around blabbering immature nonsense every time she steps in front of the camera? The list goes on and on as we slowly approach midnight and everyone's issues magically disappear just in time for the film's formulaic happy ending.
The fact that the cast of Love Actually had compelling material to work with certainly helped them deliver incredible performances, but in New Year's Eve, Marshall's actors are stuck with lame writing, which makes it oh so much harder to shine onscreen. The acting feels as forced as the relationships between these characters, and no one really succeeds in setting themselves apart from the others. In that sense, it's quite a shame Fugate was unable to offer these talented performers the kind of smart, quirky traits and lines they could have used to turn this into a more pleasant experience.
A collection of shots of New York City to create space and transitions between the different stories looks nice, but doesn't add much to the film. That said, Warner Bros. has done good with this Blu-ray edition of the movie, packing the disc with a clean 1.85:1/1080p high definition widescreen transfer boasting a crisp image and strong, vibrant colors. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix won't knock your socks off, but sound is well-balanced and clear throughout. Flip the DVD and you can even enjoy the film in standard definition. In terms of specials, the Blu-ray side of the disc includes a gag reel, deleted scenes, some rather unnecessary featurettes, and an audio commentary with Garry Marshall.
In the genre of romantic ensemble comedies, New Year's Eve is quickly forgotten. A film with barely any heart and soul, this follow-up to Valentine's Day is as pointless as it is aggravating. Movie executives and anyone with the power to greenlight a big-budget film like this one may find it hard to buy into this, rounding up top actors for the sake of marketing and feeding them with whatever shallow dialogue you can come up with it is not the way to go to please an audience. How about a New Year's resolution to finance only deserving films? The whole world would be a better, happier place.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel