Simply put, New Year’s Eve is less an original work of cinema than it is an anthology of bad ideas committed to film. The first of these may be the return of the team behind last year’s Valentine’s Day—director Garry Marshall with screenwriter Katherine Fugate—to once again co-opt the structure of a much better film, Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003). (One could argue that Marshall and Fugate are the Goofus to Curtis’ Gallant.) The list of bad ideas hardly stops there, however. There’s the cast, for instance, which is being billed as an all-star ensemble, but is more accurately a parade of terminal B-listers, former Oscar winners in the full-on death throes of their screen careers, and a smattering of painful and often confusing cameos from a number of aging stars who only seem to be there for the paycheck. Overlong and overstuffed, New Year’s Eve is middle-of-the-road excess of the worst kind, and with nothing going for it as either cinema or entertainment.
I’m not being unfairly harsh here, either: This is 118 minutes of tedium. New Year’s Eve follows the intertwined lives of a handful of affluent New Yorkers as they navigate their romantic entanglements on the last day of the year. The movie’s only real draw is its star-studded cavalcade of famous performers, ranging in notoriety from Sarah Jessica Parker and Halle Berry to lesser-known faces like Marshall-regular Hector Elizondo. For the most part, the cast list reads like a People magazine hot list from 2004. The closest thing we get to a genuine star is Robert De Niro—presumably because Pacino was too busy making Jack and Jill to take the gig. (At least De Niro has enough sway to get one of those roles where he has the moviefied version of cancer and gets to lay around in bed the entire time.)
After years of turning in particularly odorous cheese, it’s hard to expect much more from Garry Marshall, but this time it couldn’t be more stale. We even get the predictably groan-worthy cameo from his sister, Penny. Since there’s very little redeeming about this movie, perhaps we can take a second to find what the film’s nadir is. Could it be vocal stylings of one Jon Bon Jovi performing soul covers as the improbably named rockstar Jensen? Or maybe it’s Ashton Kutcher’s desperate attempt at visual comedy by wearing what appears to be a teenage girl’s pajamas? Could it be Katherine Heigl’s silver dress that makes her look like a baked potato? Actually, no, none of these are the low point. It was a trick question, because there’s not a low point. Marshall manages to keep the movie on the same even keel of boring, painful pap. That is an achievement in-and-of-itself, I suppose. Rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references.