Garry Marshall’s latest film, “New Year’s Eve,” is as flat as leftover champagne, lacking the liveliness and effervescence to make up for the plot’s inadequate substance.
The movie follows the same blueprint of Marshall’s last romantic comedy holiday blockbuster, “Valentine’s Day,” with a bevy of intersecting plotlines featuring a plethora of characters celebrating new beginnings, life and love amid New York City’s hustle and bustle. The stories range from an estranged father and daughter (Robert DeNiro and Hilary Swank) who reconcile before his death, to a couple (Jessica Biel and Seth Myers) anticipating the birth of a baby. The plots are predictable, the outcomes are unrealistic and the film panders to the audience’s emotions with overly sappy romantic entanglements.
The glossy cast should have had enough star power to boost the lackluster plot, given the range of stars, including Jon Bon Jovi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, Lea Michele and Zac Efron, but most of the performances are bland at best.
One exception to this is Michelle Pfeiffer playing a mousy secretary who decides to seize the day by fulfilling all of her New Year’s resolutions from years past after a near-death experience with the help of Efron’s character, the cheery, but undeniably rakish teen. Another is Lea Michele, whose winsome enthusiasm and earnest acting make her dreamer character believably bubbly, despite being trapped in an elevator with a cynical slacker, played by Ashton Kutcher.
But the other characters are lost in a stagnant script that’s characterized by cloying clichés. Sofia Vergara’s minor character is a laughable caricature that mimics her “Modern Family” character, Gloria. She’s not the only one who falls victim to Marshall’s slapstick preference for humor, with many of the more precious romantic scenes in the movie being ruined by unnecessary comedic pratfalls, with jokes thrown in just for cheap laughs. The multiple meandering storylines also impede on the film’s potential, with not enough screen time for any of the characters to be fully fleshed out.
The film has a few good surprise plot twists and the sappy, feel-good vibe is expected from a holiday romantic comedy. “New Year’s Eve” isn’t a work of cinematic genius, but rather poorly attempts to capture the many expectations of the new year.
“New Year’s Eve” was directed by Garry Marshall and written by Katherine Fugate.
2 out of 4 stars.