In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Ashton Kutcher changes the letters in a Happy New Year’s banner to read “Crappy New Year”… I should have taken that as a sign. Not even having twenty-plus recognizable Hollywood stars in its cast and three of them Oscar winners (Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, and Robert DeNiro) could save this film. In fact, it was probably director Garry Marshall’s over-reliance on them that sank it in the first place. Marshall, who last directed Valentine’s Day, paired up again with the same writer and tries to interweave at least eight separate plot lines, all revolving around New Year’s Eve in New York City.
Let’s see how well I can sum up at least a few of them:
- Paul (Zac Efron) is a courier whose most recent job finds him trying to help a very awkward Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) to fulfill all her lofty New Year’s resolutions from the prior year, including visiting Bali and taking a “New York taxi ride without traffic.”
- Stan (Robert DeNiro) is on his death bed, refusing treatment, but his one last request is to watch the Time Square ball drop at midnight on the hospital roof. Will nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) let him?
- Griffin (Seth Meyers) and Tess (Jessica Biel) are at the hospital ready to conceive, when they find out that whoever has the first baby of the new year gets $25,000. The competition between them and another couple involves every “conceivable” way of trying to induce labor.
- Laura (Katherine Heigl) is a head chef for the New Year’s Ball festivities along with Ava (Sofia Vergara). A year ago, famous rocker Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) proposed, but turned tail and ran away soon after. Will she forgive him and take a chance on him?
- Randy (Kutcher) hates New Year’s Eve (didn’t Biel hate Valentine’s Day just as much in the last film they were all in?) and ends up stuck in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), who is a wide-eyed optimist and late for her destiny at the festivities and Jensen’s concert.
- Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a boring mom who works downtown but has no man of her own. Her teen daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) wants mom to stop being a prude, go out and find a man, and let her go to the festivities on her own, to steal a kiss from a certain young boy.
- Claire (Swank) is in charge of the Ball-dropping festivities, and has a crisis on her hands as the ball won’t light or fall, and her job is on the line.
- Sam (Josh Duhamel) is on his way to the city to take a chance on love, as last New Year’s introduced him to the possible woman of his dreams. When things go south, they decide to reunite in exactly one year to try to rekindle the romance, but Sam’s having car issues.
I know I missed quite a few plotlines and connections, but I think even the screenwriters had trouble following them all as well. There are just too many characters involved to ever really care for any one in particular. You might laugh out loud once or twice, but the cutesy musical intros and cutscenes between them all don’t give you time to get much of anything out of it.
The biggest problem is trying to sell New Year’s in Time Square as the “ultimate” in romantic locations and holidays. Sure a lot of people see January 1st as a new beginning and a chance for a clean slate, but the date seems pretty arbitrary if you think about it. I’ve never been a big resolution person myself, but I do like the idea of new directions and don’t think you need to wait however many months away to make a positive change in your life. Every new day we live, God gives us a fresh start… and as Gandalf so famously quoted in The Lord of the Rings, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Overall, it’s not a terrible movie. It’s just a bit frantic, and more like a crash course in star-spotting at an A-list party. It’s light-hearted and does have a few laughs, and maybe a tear or two depending on your (okay… my wife’s) mood. Seeing how Sam tries to help Ingrid fulfill her dreams was pretty clever, and I did enjoy Biel and Meyers as the gung-ho parents-to-be as well. The most laughs, however, came during the blooper reel/credits, including a shameless plug for Valentine’s Day, Marshall’s other film.
Bonus features are pretty standard, with an extended blooper reel, deleted scenes, and director commentary. Also included are a few featurettes, such as “The Magic of Time Square,” which explores what the holiday and the Big Apple mean to the film’s stars, as well as “Secrets of the Stars,” which focuses on their favorite New Year’s memories. Lastly, one more featurette looks at the songs of the film, as performed by Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele.