“New Year’s Eve’s” formulaic plot and cookie-cutter script make it an an easy target for critics. Several told me they flat-out refused to see it (avoiding it like Times Square on New Year’s Eve?), and after its predecessor, last year’s “Valentine’s Day,” also directed by Garry Marshall, one can appreciate the sentiment.
I, however, will always be intrigued by a film with a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Hillary Swank, Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer, no matter how vanilla and derivative it seems. Come on, people! We’re talking Oscar winners, Oscar nominees and … Ashton Kutcher.
I’m kidding. I really like Ashton Kutcher. Really.
Also like “Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” involves a gaggle of story lines and characters that, we eventually find out, are all connected. For starters, Josh Duhamel’s Sam attends his friend’s wedding in upstate New York, only to become stranded, clad in a tuxedo with seemingly no way to get back home for his big New Year’s party, where he’s expected to make a speech. How does he get back? He hitches a ride with the church pastor in the pastor’s Winnebago.
Meanwhile, Hilary Swank’s Claire Morgan is presiding over the New Year’s celebration in Times Square and must overcome a crisis, while Robert De Niro’s cancer-stricken Stan lies in a hospital bed, hours away from death, willing himself to stay alive long enough to watch from the roof of the hospital as the ball drops at midnight. Halle Berry is his nurse, who insists on staying with him until the bitter end.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Ingrid, a downtrodden mess who quits her job and finds an unlikely ally in Zac Efron’s bicycle messenger, Paul. Ashton Kutcher’s Randy wants to be the grinch that steals New Year’s Eve but, of course, that’s going to change when he gets stuck in an elevator with Lea Michele’s Elise — a backup singer for a rock star named Jensen, who’s played by a rock star named Jon Bon Jovi.
Not enough for you? How about 15-year-old Hailey, played by the adorable Abigail Breslin, who’s hoping her mom, played by Sarah Jessica Parker (does that make you feel old?) will let her hang out in Times Square so she can steal her first kiss from her crush, Seth (Jake T. Austin).
And finally, there’s — well, it’s just not worth mentioning.
Richard Curtis’ 2003 Christmas romance, “Love Actually,” perfected this sort of sentimental, all-star, multiple-storyline narrative. We haven’t seen the likes of it since and may never again. That said, “New Year’s Eve” has some poignant moments, particularly the work done by De Niro, Berry and Pfeiffer. Then there are the ultra-predictable, unapologetic, super treacle-y moments that are about as good for your brain as too much dessert is for your waistline. But who doesn’t love enjoying too much dessert every once in a while?
Three out of five stars.