Monday, December 12, 2011

New Year's Eve (2011)

New Year's Eve
Dir. Garry Marshall

2 out of 5

A kind of Decameron for rubes,
New Year's Eve is a vapid omnibus full of dubious wisdom and unearned sentiment. It asks us to fully invest ourselves in the lives of nearly two dozen lovelorn New Yorkers, few of them achieving the depth necessary for us to appreciate their individual plight, which spans the importance spectrum from a nurse (Halle Berry) trying to clock out by the end of the second shift to a man (Robert DeNiro) in the same hospital who is dying of cancer. It is the kind of movie that puts great emphasis on the "midnight kiss," a threadbare convention that, at this point, feels like it was invented exclusively to build romantic suspense in movies and television shows. It is the kind of movie that wants us to believe that Zac Efron and Sarah Jessica Parker are siblings, 22-year age gap be damned.

It's difficult to determine which of
New Year's Eve's interlocking stories is the best, and perhaps even harder to identify the worst. The tentative relationship forged by Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele while trapped in a sitcom plot, I mean elevator, is a tour de force of anti-chemistry. Equally odious is a tale of two pregnant couples who are vying to deliver the first baby of the new year, a title which comes with a $25,000 cash prize. I suppose there have been greater risks taken for 25 grand, but it's unsettling to see prenatal tampering and medical irresponsibility played for big, broad laughs.

Yet even in this repository of recycled bits from other, better romantic comedies, there are some redeeming qualities. The movie benefits from genuinely funny performances by TV veterans like Seth Meyers and Sofia Vergara, people who know a little about how to stand out in an ensemble. And Efron's unconvincing alpha-male bike messenger can't spoil the film's best narrative thread involving his unlikely friendship with Michelle Pfeiffer, a mousy record company drone who quits her job to fulfill a decade's worth of New Year's resolutions in one day. It's a refreshing change of pace from the film's silly twists and general air of desperation, a keen reminder that our couplings need not always be ordained by cosmic prophecy. They're the only pair starting with a clean slate in a movie that insists on celebrating new beginnings with a counter-intuitive reliance on the tried and true.

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