New Year's Eve
New Year’s Eve stars Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Lea Michele, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Seth Meyers – and that’s just a partial list. Like Valentine’s Day before it, this movie is selling celebrities, and has the good sense to recognize this. Writer Katherine Fugate knows people are coming to see this movie because of all its stars, not because of the storylines, plot twists, and interesting characters, so she doesn’t spend too much time worrying about these things.
Instead she creates a world where every person can be wholly described by using a single adjective and all their major conflicts can be resolved in one night. Also, everyone is attractive. It’s a simple world, and New Year’s Eve is a simple movie, but it’s not unenjoyable. You have to take it for what it is. With the exception of a potential MTV Movie Award, it won’t be winning any prizes, but as a frothy, sweet, romantic comedy starring lots of really famous people, it works as a fun time.
New Year’s Eve centers around the ball dropping in Times Square and a big record company party also going on that night. With so many plotlines and characters, no one is fully developed beyond the basics. One of the more interesting character’s is Michelle Pfeiffer’s Ingrid, a timid, dowdy secretary who quits her job and tries to fit in a year’s worth of New Year’s resolutions before 2011 is over. She hires Zac Efron to help her achieve this goal, allowing Efron to act like a bro while also doing a slew of creative and adorable things for the fifty-something Ingrid. It’s a pairing that I’m sure was designed to make teenage girls and their mothers alike swoon. It works. The movie never asks the obvious question, however, which is “how did Ingrid become this way?” She’s not given a background of any kind, and remains one-dimensional throughout the film.
Despite her weak character, Pfeiffer’s performance is notable in that she’s hardly recognizable. Her mousy hair and anxious demeanor is a far cry from the seductive and confident Velma Von Tussle from her biggest recent hit, Hairspray. Another notable performance is given by a relative newcomer, Modern Family’s Sofía Vergara. Vergara plays Ava, Katherine Heigl’s sous-chef, an overly sexual woman with her accent laid on thick. Again, it’s clear here that Fugate didn’t work too hard creating Ava, as she’s nothing more than an exaggerated version of Vergara’s already exaggerated character from Modern Family. Still, Vergara has brilliant comedic timing and her performance elicited the most laughs from the audience.
In the spirit of not pushing any of the actors too far out of their comfort zones, Lea Michele plays an aspiring singer, Jon Bon Jovi plays a rock star, and Ashton Kutcher plays a man-child. Abigail Breslin plays a typical 15-year-old girl with a borderline annoying speech pattern that could just be her exaggerating the inflections of teenagers, or it could be the way she really speaks. Her mother is Sarah Jessica Parker, a seamstress/fashion designer, who closes out the night by wearing a beautiful gown reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw.
For the most part everyone is related to everyone else, with the exception of Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers. The two of them seem to exist in a bubble, separate from the rest of the movie. Biel and Meyers are Tess and Griffin Byrnes, a couple hoping to have the first baby born on New Year’s Day in order to win a cash prize. Their best connection is to Robert De Niro’s character, a dying patient at the same hospital. De Niro is given the most uninteresting storyline in this whole movie, and his nurse is played by Halle Berry, who’s wasted until the final ten minutes of the film.
De Niro’s storyline is the exception, however. The other plotlines are all at least mildly interesting and tell cute, though certainly shallow, stories. It’s when New Year’s Eve strays away from its fabulously superficial core and tries for something deeper that it becomes unbelievable. Hilary Swank plays Claire Morgan, the woman who is in charge of the ball dropping at midnight. When the ball becomes stuck while being raised to its peak and won’t light up, the public demands an answer. Claire delivers what I’m sure was intended to be a heartfelt speech about how the stalling of the ball represents the need for reflection on the past year, and how the true meaning of New Year’s Eve is about getting new chances. The speech itself is one giant cliché, but it becomes laughable as various characters tell her how touched they were by it.
New Year’s Eve is really nothing more than an excuse for a bunch of famous actors and actresses to share the big screen together. No one signed on for this movie because they were driven by the moving script or multi-dimensional characters, because that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about cashing in on the fame of its stars, and having simple, shallow fun. It may not be the best movie you’ll see all year, or the highlight of any of its stars’ respective careers, but it is just about fun enough and that will do.
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