The Austin Chronicle

New Year's Eve

Rated PG-13, 118 min. Directed by Garry Marshall. Starring Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank, Sofia Vergara.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011

Director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate lift in toto the same framework of their previous collaboration, Valentine's Day – the holiday theme, the puzzle-piece narrative, the overstuffed cast of stars, the colorless execution. On New Year's Eve in New York City, disparate people try to make it a night to remember, angling for a midnight kiss, a rendezvous with a mystery woman, a reconciliation with a lost love, or the prize of pushing out the first baby of the new year. Marshall has corralled a considerable share of Oscar-caliber talent here, only to coax frankly embarrassing work from them; Swank, for instance, delivers every line with the same perky patience one uses to teach a first-grader how to tie a shoe.

There's a difference between pleasant escapism and just plain half-assedness, and New Year's Eve – a flimsy fiction to start with – can't even muster the strength of its own convictions. (Case in point: What the hell kind of caterer serves Jell-O at a black-tie function? Further, could no one show Heigl, as said caterer, a few knife skills before rolling camera?) There are blips of charm and genuine sentiment, so rare as to feel accidentally arrived at (see: teen dream Zac Efron, loosey-goosey and looking like the only actor having a whit of fun; Halle Berry, who could wring a tear out of a dead tree trunk). But mostly, New Year's Eve is appalling stuff, a poorly constructed, sentimental sham. Auld lang suck.

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