Another interlocking protracted episodic romantic comedy finds Garry Marshall dropping the ball on the genre with charmless, sappy returns for cineastes looking to embrace hope, love, and forgiveness during another holiday season.
His Big-Apple-based New Year's Eve is even slighter than his relatively recent Valentine's Day which also starred Jessica Biel. This time, the off-screen paramour of Justin Timberlake is flanked by some twenty high-profile celebs, including underutilized Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, and Robert DeNiro who have five Academy Awards between them.
The problem is with a meretricious film with requite surprises in the latter-going there is just too much cheap, contrived humor and sentiment (besides an overabundance of characters), as well as advertising for the studio's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Not to mention old-fashioned moralizing within its wish-fulfillment romantic inklings.
Katherine Fugate again constructs a storyline with enough competency with an editor held together by Swank's executive in Claire trying to get to the bottom of some technical problems with security guard (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) and retired electrician (Hector Elizondo, who has a part in nearly all of Marshall's movies, at least going back to Pretty Woman).
Among the narrative strands are a terminally ill patient Stan (DeNiro) who wants to witness the festivities around midnight with the help of a beautiful nurse (Berry, who's rumored to be getting married again). Two couples, including one played by Biel and Seth Meyers are racing to get distinction of having being the first one to have a child. Sarah Jessica Parker is a fretful mother whose teen daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) wants to be at the annual midtown Manhattan extravaganza. Josh Duhamel is a nattily attired millionaire working his way to a big city soiree, while a back-up vocalist (Lea Michele) for rocker Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) is stuck in an elevator with an immature lovelorn guy (internet maven Ashton Kutcher of TV's Two and Half Men).
Also, Jensen happens to be the former boyfriend of chef Laura (Katherine Heigl of the upcoming One for the Money) trying to keep her distance from him while trying to pull off an important catering job. Paul, a courier, played by Zach Efron, attempts to assist the aspirations of a tired secretary, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Appearing in the Jensen/Laura dynamic is Sofia Vergara (TV's Modern Family) as the latter's nosy sous chef, so it's easy to predict what will happen there. No risking-taking or opportunity to capture honest relational angst occurs as there is rough going especially during the scenes with Kutcher and Michele (perhaps on a par with Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner from Valentine's Day). In the case of a miscast Pfeiffer and Efron (who may be the only actor to escape relatively unscathed from the shallowness of what rarely is worth following), an overall contrived, misguided schmaltz downplays their appeal. If Marshall plans on embracing another holiday with A-listers let's hope it isn't as painful and narrow-minded as New Year's Eve.