You’ve guessed it: it’s nearly ball-dropping time in Times Square, New York City, and a bunch of characters have all sorts of New Year’s resolutions to make and keep, all to do with some form of love: forgiveness, compassion, opening their hearts to a different point of view etc. We follow the 24 hours before the ‘greatest reset button in life’, New Year’s Eve and the big countdown.
Director Garry Marshall and writer Katherine Fugate haven’t learnt their lesson from last time, it seems – or they’re under contract to see this limp franchise through to the bitter end. The problem isn’t attracting an impressive cast – as that’s what the film’s main draw is, what with De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl and even Jon Bon Jovi on board: One could cynically argue that it’s the easiest money they’ve earned all year, so of course, they’ve signed up. Perhaps it’s their collective love for the Big Apple at this time of year, too?
What is highlighted is too much of a good cast, without proper mini plot development in each scenario just produces a damp squib, with characters we don’t much care for, even if we enjoy seeing the famous faces together in one film. Their characters’ trials and tribulations amount to padding until the countdown, with some great musical numbers from Bon Jovi intermixed for fans. Hence, when the big moment finally comes we should be right there with them all, feeling that renewed hope of a great new year ahead, rather than wishing to reset our own time button to two hours earlier.
We see De Niro wasting away – both in body and mind with such a character; Heigl as the usual ‘bridesmaid and never the bride’ – again; Berry like a worn out extra off ER; Swank running around and mounting her own personal crusade – complete with the ever perfect curl in her hair; and Pfeiffer trying to convince us she’s really plain Jane and uninteresting – well, the latter part is true in this film, even with Efron and his cheeky charms trying to inject some life into her and their scenario of completing her wish list, as though she’s going to snuff it at midnight.
And no film set in New York would be complete without Sarah Jessica Parker running around in killer heels, like she’s doing a small SATC Carrie cameo, and forgotten she’s actually playing a concerned mum to teen Hailey (Abigail Breslin) who just wants to be kissed. Valentine’s Day star Ashton Kutcher plays disinterested New Year’s loather Randy in this, rather than over-enthusiastic flower man Reed in the 2010 film. He’s really only there to set up a singing scene for Glee’s Lea Michele in a knockout red number, and gets to slob it out in PJs, like he’s just got out of bed to make a lacklustre appearance in this.
As a result of too many characters and not enough investment in each, New Year’s Eve also suffers from a frustrating lack of explanation, such as what’s Claire Morgan’s (Swank) deep bond with cop friend Brendan (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), and why is she estranged from her father, Stan (De Niro) – among others. To be honest, should we really care?
Apart from Bon Jovi rocking the house and a great vocal performance from Michele, Sofía Vergara – who’s like an annoying Cheeky Girl at the start – makes things hot and steamy in chef Laura’s (Heigl) kitchen, as well as steals the only comedic moments as man-crazy sous chef Ava from Heigl, rendering the latter’s usual comedy presence void.
There are a number of other actors and situations going on, one or more of which ought to strike a chord with whoever is watching. Although the filmmakers’ intentions are all good, the execution results in contrived, groan-inducing morality and over simplicity in parts that just undermines the candour of the lessons learnt. Let’s hope there’s not another date in the Western calendar that Marshall and Fugate can get/have got their hands on – even if it means they keep a few big names in easy work.