I have to believe that the world inside Garry Marshall's head looks a lot like the original construct of the Matrix. You know, the one that was apparently so full of rainbows, lollipops, sunshine, and happy endings for all, that humanity refused to accept it as reality? The idea being that humans don't understand how a place devoid of misery, sadness, or tragedy could possibly be the real world, because it's so ingrained in our very being that these things simply must exist.
Not for Garry Marshall. In Garry Marshall's world, even the worst tragedies of life are so thickly coated in candy-flavored sweetness that to merely step foot inside of it would instantly rot your teeth right out of your face. Marshall is a schmaltz peddler, and an unashamed one. He's also getting old, which perhaps explains why his recent career trajectory has signaled a sea change from turning challenging subjects into the stuff of women's most facile dreams, to simply packaging as many beautiful actors as he can into two hours of romantic anti-comedy loosely tied into one holiday or another. He's gone from taking troubling things like prostitution and mental disability and making them into sickeningly sweet tales of romance, to basically saying, "What's a holiday where people kiss? Okay, let's get like 30 actors and make something about that."
First, it was the thoroughly insufferable Valentine's Day. Now, it's New Year's Eve, a romantic comedy so similarly and painfully formulaic, that the tagline on the poster might as well read "It's just like Valentine's Day! Now with more actors!" These are literally the only major alterations from Marshall's last attempt at cashing in on a holiday. It is a different holiday, and there are more actors.
Not that any of them are acting, really. That's not really their job here. Their job is to go from looking sad/frustrated to happy/lovestruck over the course of each of their bite-sized storylines. Most of them barely seem willing/able to do even this meager task. Instead they mug, preen, cry, and breathlessly espouse various greeting card quality sound bytes about the importance/meaning/magic of New Year's Eve.
A brief overview of the various "plots" contained within New Year's Eve: Halle Berry plays a nurse who finds herself tending to the bedraggled specter of Robert De Niro, who apparently has cancer and just wants to see one last New Year's Eve; the bedraggled specter of Michelle Pfeiffer contracts Zac Efron to help her carry out a sort of bizarre holiday bucket list; Katherine Heigl is a master chef who has jilted feelings toward Jon Bon Jovi (not playing himself, but pretty much just playing himself); Josh Duhamel hitches a ride with a pair of elderly RV owners to find some mystery woman of his dreams in New York City; Lea Michele is trapped in an elevator with a cynical New Year's Eve hater (Ashton Kutcher); Abigail Breslin tries desperately to find a man for her grumpy mom (Sarah Jessica Parker); Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel desperately attempt to birth their baby as the first of the new year, against the rival couple of Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson; and Hilary Swank (who apparently forgot she owns a couple of Oscars) plays the woman who is in charge of making sure the ball drops at midnight in Times Square, because apparently there is some manufactured risk of that not happening.
As if that scattered assemblage of pretty/recognizable faces weren't enough, Marshall still even finds ways to work in the likes of Sofia Vergara, Ludacris, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Carla Gugino, Matthew Broderick, Jim Belushi, Jake Austin, Joey McIntyre, Yeardley Smith, Jack McGee, Larry Miller, Ryan Seacrest, Penny Marshall, and Hector Elizondo.
It's a veritable slurry of famous faces, all jam-packed into two hours of absolutely nothing of consequence happening. Each of these tales is barely up to the task of emulating a crappy Hallmark Original Movie. New Year's Eve is like nine of those crappy Hallmark films squished into an over-sized soup can, then chucked directly at your skull. There is no development of any of these stories--how could there be? With "only" two hours to get through this insane, inchoate mess of romances, it is literally impossible for any of these stories to matter.
Presumably, Marshall's belief is that you'll love this stuff anyway, because it's about love, and love is awesome, so who cares if everything happening is so ludicrously fairy-tale-esque that there isn't a snowball's chance in hell you'll believe any of it? With movies like Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries under his belt, it's clear that believability isn't one of Marshall's concerns--though to be fair, I did sort of like The Princess Diaries. Marshall likes glossy, happy things that make everyone smile--or, at least, make people who are exactly like Garry Marshall smile, anyway. He polishes every frame of this movie to such a glistening sheen that you half-expect to see your own reflection in every single panning helicopter shot of New York's many fascinating landmarks. It is actually pretty impressive how well Marshall is able to make real New York locations look like cheaply constructed movie sets. Almost uncanny, really.
There are plenty of holiday-oriented romances out there that include things like characters you will care about, stories that don't feel assembled from the dumpster behind Hallmark's North Korean family film script factory, and direction that doesn't assume you're the dumbest person on the planet and that you need your stories of love spoon-fed to you like a convalescing invalid. New Year's Eve commits all of the above crimes, and probably others I was far too bored to notice. I do not recommend seeing it.
Trailer: New Year's Eve
I can't wait for this movie to come out, if only to discover the answer to my question: will these people have romantic entanglements that culminate in lessons being learned and first kisses being shared on New Year's Eve? I'm dying to know!
Trailer: New Year's Eve
NO NO GOD NO STOP
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