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New Year’s Eve (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023


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, Sarah Paulson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank, Sofia Vergara, Jake T. Austin, Cherry Jones, Carla Gugino, Jim Belushi, John Lithgow, Russell Peters, Carey Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Larry Miller, Yeardley Smith, Jack McGee, Lucy Woodward, Stephanie Alexander, Common, Joey McIntyre, Matthew Broderick, Penny Marshall, Ryan Seacrest and Michael Bloomberg.

Screenplay by Katherine Fugate.

Directed by Garry Marshall.

Distributed by New Line Cinema. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13.

I can’t imagine that anyone walked out of Garry Marshall’s awful-but-popular ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day and thought, “Hmmm… I wonder what he could do with another holiday.”

Personally, I walked out wondering: “Is it possible for Garry Marshall to make a worse film?” And this is the guy who made such monumental stinkers as Dear God, Exit to Eden, The Other Sister, Raising Helen and The Runaway Bride, so that’s saying something.

Well, a year and a half later, here is New Year’s Eve. It answers those nagging questions. “Nothing good” is the answer to “what he could do with another holiday?” And the answer to “can he make a worse film?” is “oh, hell, yes.” New Year’s Eve is the proof.

New Year’s Eve returns to the flawed Valentine’s Day template of shoehorning as many celebs as you can into shallow and cheesy love stories and sit back and hope for the magic.

It just doesn’t come.

Yet, somehow, I did not hate New Year’s Eve quite as much as I hated its endless predecessor. I certainly didn’t like it, and the emotional button-pushing was even crasser this time out. Also, more than one of the story lines seemed loosely based on things we already saw in Valentine’s Day. Yet, somehow, it did not make my flesh crawl quite as much. Maybe I’m becoming an old softie like Marshall. Maybe it’s just that it took place in New York City rather than Los Angeles. Perhaps it’s just that this film is mercifully less than two hours long this time around (though just barely.)

Marshall and returning screenwriter Katherine Fugate (and it is being charitable using the term writer) throw together eight not particularly interesting (and terribly clichéd) stories, shuffle the deck, and let the cards fall where they may.

A quick breakdown of our stories (and that is all they deserve):

Hilary Swank plays the new head of the Times Square Alliance – the woman in charge of making sure the lowering of the giant crystal ball over Times Square goes smoothly. (And yes, there are way too many jokes to count about “dropping the ball.”) Unfortunately, the ball malfunctions, forcing them to find a recently fired but legendary electrician (played by Marshall regular Hector Elizondo).

An aging record company secretary, played by a distressingly frumpy looking Michelle Pfeiffer, cheats death (if you consider jumping out of the way of a slightly close taxi and into a pile of trash cheating death) and decides she has wasted her life. Therefore, she quits her job and decides to cram her entire lifetime bucket list into one day (despite the fact that many of them would be impossible to do in one day) with the help of a cute younger messenger (Zac Efron).

The messenger’s best friend is a slacker graphic novelist (Ashton Kutcher) who absolutely hates New Year’s Eve. They never quite explain this irrational hatred of the holiday, though he intimates a girl broke his heart in college. (He’s in his late 20s, if that is the case, he should really move on already.) While on his anti-holiday rampage of destroying decorations, he gets stuck on the elevator (oh, no they didn’t!) for eight hours with a cute next-door neighbor (Lea Michelle from Glee). The neighbor is a singer who is worried about losing her big break, singing back up for superstar Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) at a big Times Square concert.

That superstar is more concerned with his ex-fiancée (Katherine Heigl) who he dumped shortly after asking her to marry him the last New Year’s Eve. However, the ex is more concerned with her professional big break, catering (with her co-workers Sofia Vergara and Russell Peters) a huge party from the very same record label the secretary quit from earlier that day.

The party is being thrown by the record company’s beloved late owner’s son (Josh Duhamel) who finds himself stranded in Connecticut after an auto accident. (His GPS unit actually says left and right at the same time – which I would think was impossible.) He hitches a ride into the city with a local family because he has to make it back to pay tribute to his late dad. Plus, the previous New Year’s Eve he had met the perfect woman at a pizza parlor, and they had made an Affair to Remember date to meet again the next year.

In the meantime, downtown at a hospital, two extremely pregnant couples (Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel, Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson) get into a competition to see who can deliver first, because the hospital will be giving a prize of $25,000 to the parents of the first baby of the New Year. (Really???) In one scene, the couple even asks their doctor about getting a C-section, leading the audience to wonder if that unnecessary surgery wouldn’t have been even more expensive than the potential cash prize.

Then there is a man in the same hospital that is dying of cancer (Robert De Niro). His final wish is to go up on the roof of his hospital to watch the ball drop one final time. His beautiful, compassionate, and surprisingly dateless nurse (Halle Berry) spends the entire day in his room to make his final hours on Earth as peaceful as possible – all the while completely ignoring all her other patients.

And I didn’t even mention the divorced mother (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is upset that her 15-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) would rather go to Times Square and kiss a boy (Jake T. Austin) than spend the night at home with mom.

I can’t help imagining De Niro, Swank and Berry getting together after a day of shooting and looking longingly at their past Oscars, wondering when their careers went so wrong.

Many of the characters and stories intersect in completely random and frankly rather arbitrary reasons. Other’s stories stand alone. There was one late scene in the film where two characters that are late for an important meeting rush towards each other, but then keep going past each other as a fake-out to the audience. That same scene is shown in the ending credits blooper reel and they two grab each other, leading you to wonder if the filmmakers didn’t even know how or why they wanted to end this.

Even more than Valentine’s Day, this film becomes a “Where’s Waldo” game of spot the celebrity. They are not just in the lead roles anymore, either. Now celebs are taking the bit parts. Isn’t that Alyssa Milano as one of the nurses at the hospital? Is that Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride as a doctor? They’re not really making us watch a video cam chat with rapper Common, are they? And Ludacris is a cop – and a family man at that? Why is Jim Belushi taking the one-scene character of a maintenance man? Or for that matter, why is John Lithgow also getting a single dumb scene as an insensitive boss? Doesn’t Carla Gugino deserve a bit more screen time than she gets as a new age obstetrician? Why is New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre getting married in the beginning of the film and then promptly disappearing? Is jazz singer Lucy Woodward singing backing vocals in Jon Bon Jovi’s Times Square performance? And when did Ryan Seacrest earn the title of “Mr. New Years?” I know she’s the director’s sister, but surely Penny Marshall has something better to do with her time than to appear just long enough to make a snide remark to a waitress. Did Matthew Broderick do his nothing cameo as the head of the Times Square Alliance to get his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, into the movie – or vice versa? Even New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was able to find some time in his undoubtedly busy day to do a cameo as himself.

It is hard to take half of these people seriously because the movie is more interested in the celebrity factor than making them viable as characters.

If all it takes to amuse you is to see a lot of celebrities, you can just watch Entertainment Tonight at home for free. And essentially, even a silly infotainment show like ET is no less substantial than New Year’s Eve.

It is time for the people to take a stand. Otherwise, we will be staring at such potential future Garry Marshall blockbusters as The Fourth of July, St. Patty’s Day and Arbor Day. Take back the holidays. Do not see New Year’s Eve. It will just encourage them to make more.

May auld acquaintances with New Year’s Eve be forgot. Please, God, let us forget.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: December 7, 2011.


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