Twenty-two months ago, director Garry Marshall and writer Katherine Fugate hit pay dirt with “Valentine’s Day,” which crammed a dozen under-developed romantic-comedy plot lines into one stunningly lazy film and made $216 million worldwide. The obvious thing to do when you have found a very easy way to make a lot of money without putting forth any effort, is to do it again. Marshall and Fugate have therefore re-teamed for “New Year’s Eve,” which is not a sequel (it has none of the same characters) but is instead an even lazier, even dumber re-hash of “Valentine’s Day” — a movie that was already very lazy and dumb to begin with!
The setting has shifted from L.A. to New York, and it’s December 31 instead of February 14, but the premise is the same: numerous photogenic people have romantic adventures over the course of the day and night, and a few dozen A- and B-list actors get to do no more than a few days’ work and be in a high-profile movie. Some of the romantic adventures intersect, and some don’t. What’s consistent is that not one of the characters ever behaves in a normal human manner, nor is even one of the stories compelling, funny, or interesting. You talk about a script feeling like a first draft; this one feels like the rough outline that you scribble on a napkin before you even start on the first draft.
Claire (Hilary Swank) is stressed out because she’s the vice president of the Times Square Alliance and is in charge of the ball-dropping thing, and if that goes wrong, all of New York City will be plunged into darkness and despair. She has her staff practice throwing confetti out the windows, to make sure it … works? I guess? For extra dumbness, she’s afraid of heights. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who clearly was never as bored in his life as he was during the one day he had to spend working on this movie, plays a police officer who is her friend and serves no function in the story. It’s another cop who slings Claire over his shoulder to carry her upstairs, because she’s afraid of heights, as I mentioned.
Meanwhile, there’s a hipster douche named Ashton Kutcher, and he plays a hipster douche named Randy who is a real Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to New Year’s Eve, for reasons the movie does not bother to pretend to be interested in coming up with. He gets stuck in his apartment building’s elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), and they are trapped for what the movie tells us is more than eight hours. How unlucky for them that nobody else in the building tried to summon the elevator all day long! At the end of this ordeal, they fall in (SPOILER ALERT!) love.
11/1/2011: The Pitch Meeting for ‘New Year’s Eve’
Meanwhile, a mousy and timid secretary named Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) has squandered the entire year without tackling her list of resolutions, so she does the only logical thing: she hires the bicycle messenger who delivers packages to her office to help her accomplish everything before midnight. The courier, Paul (Zac Efron), is Randy’s friend, which you can tell because they both say “bro” a lot. Ingrid is painfully awkward, possibly autistic, and her resolutions are mostly things that cannot be accomplished in one day, like “travel around the world.” So Paul has to cheat a little to help her achieve them, and I don’t know why she needed him anyway, but I resolved I would give the movie a positive review if these two characters had sex, but they didn’t.
Meanwhile, there are other people with equally implausible and idiotic New Year’s Eve complications. Jessica Biel and Sarah Paulson are pregnant ladies hoping to win a prize by giving birth to the first baby of the new year, with Seth Meyers and Til Schweiger as their husbands. They get very competitive about this!!!!!! Robert De Niro is an old man dying of cancer in a hospital where the nurse is Halle Berry. Katherine Heigl is a caterer at a fancy party where legendary rock star Jensen (played by Jon Bon Jovi) is performing, and this guy is her ex-boyfriend, and they clash. In other words, it’s Katherine Heigl doing a medley of her greatest hits! Sofia Vergara works with Heigl and has giant bazooms and speaks in that comical South American accent of hers, for comedy. Sarah Jessica Parker is a mom with a 15-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) who wants to spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square with her pals. Josh Duhamel was at a wedding in Connecticut and is now hurrying back to the city and must hitch a ride in an RV driven by a vacationing family. He needs to get there in time so he can reconnect with the mystery woman he met last New Year’s Eve, who is probably one of the other women we have already met, but it’s a mystery!!!!!
Also, Carla Gugino, James Belushi, Hector Elizondo, Cary Elwes, Cherry Jones, and Matthew Broderick (playing a character named “Buellerton,” heaven help us) have small roles. IMDb says Alyssa Milano was there too, but I don’t remember seeing her.
Here’s the film’s sense of humor boiled down to one line: “You’re a real hostile guy. Where do you work, the DMV??” (Boy, the DMV, am I right??) And here it is boiled down to another line: “There are so many things we can’t control in this world: earthquakes, floods, reality shows.” (Golly, those reality shows sure are out of hand, aren’t they?) If you find those jokes funny, this is definitely the movie for you. If you don’t, then you will probably feel the same way I did, which is that I kept hoping a monster would rise from the sea and devour everyone.
D- (1 hr., 58 min.; )