Blu-ray Review: New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros.)

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New Year's Eve Blu-ray

What hath Love Actually wrought? The delightful 2003 British romantic comedy anthology film has ushered in a new genre of knockoffs, none of which have even come close to writer/director Richard Curtis’ charmer. 2010 saw the release of Valentine’s Day, director Gary Marshall’s ode to that holiday featuring multiple romantic stories and an all-star cast. That one was pretty bad, but it made money, so here’s Marshall’s next entry in what seems to be a series, and woe for us. New Year’s Eve is the corniest, most contrived, most pointless waste of two cinematic hours since … well, since Valentine’s Day.

Following the Love Actually blueprint, NYE tells many stories with the common bond of a big event—in this case, the dropping of the ball in Times Square on Dec. 31st. Among these storylines is: Jon Bon Jovi and Katherine Heigl as squabbling ex-lovers (he’s a rockstar—wow, what a twist; and she’s a caterer, and they’re both extremely annoying); Hilary Swank as the person responsible for getting the ball to drop (and guess what? It malfunctions. Isn’t that HYSTERICAL?); Robert DeNiro, mopey and sorely wasted as a cancer patient who just wants to see the ball one … last … time …; Sarah Jessica Parker as the irritating doting mom of a mouthy, irritating teenager daughter played by Abigail Breslin; the expectant couple (Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel) who want to be the first parents of the new year so they can win $25,000 (and—get this—there’s another couple that also wants that money. Snicker!); Ashton Kutcher, in grungy Two and a Half Men mode, as an unwashed comic book artist who ends up trapped in an elevator with a singer (Glee’s too-cute Lea Michele) and they fall in love in 15 minutes and it’s so adorable; then there’s Josh Duhamel as the lovelorn guy who, in a spin (ripoff) of Serendipity, has to get to a bar at midnight so he can re-meet the mystery girl he met last New Year’s; and … well, I could go on, but you get the idea.

NYE tries really, really hard to cover a lot of bases, from comedy to drama to soapy romance, to give a well-rounded look at the different things that can happen to some very attractive people on one special night, but Katherine Fugate’s script is so soaked in pablum and kitschy cuteness, it feels like something that was filmed on another planet. Marshall’s direction is no help, playing up the shtick to the point of ridiculousness. Seriously, this film is so out of touch with reality, it makes Avatar look like a documentary.

The huge, expensive cast is, for the most part, done no favors by the material or execution. Bon Jovi, who’s done OK in past movie efforts, gives acting a bad name. Breslin is whiny, forced and way overwritten. Parker continues the tradition of annoying, narcissistic performances that have marred her post-Sex and the City work. Swank, a very good actress, does her best, but in hokey moments such as the sequence in which she gives a TV interview that changes the world, you have to throw up your hands in wonder at what she’s doing here.

It’s not all bad news. Some of the performances come off well. Halle Berry, who’s done her fair share of crap lately, is one of the best things about this film, playing the nurse taking care of DeNiro with sincerity and understatement. Michele Pfeiffer charms as a woman in mid-life crisis who enlists the help of a likeable Zac Efron to give her one great day.

It’s a shame, with all the talent assembled here, that this film turned out so unfunny and un-charming. Oh, I suppose you could do worse if you’re looking for a fluffy chick flick renter, and it does have some nice shots of New York at night that look great on Blu-ray.

But you could also do so much better. Don’t believe me? Stick around until the big revelation of the identity of Duhamel’s mystery girl and see if you can resist the urge to throw something at the TV.

Like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve made money at the box office, so expect more holiday epics along these lines. Lucky us.

Buy New Year’s Eve (Single-Disc Blu-ray/DVD+UltraViolet Digital Copy Combo Pack) from Amazon
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