2011年12月7日

New Year's Eve review

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Garry Marshall has managed to cram in even more stars for his latest holiday-themed rom-com, and this time they're celebrating New Year's Eve...
When Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day emerged a couple of years ago to scathing reviews, everyone announced the tentatively developing ensemble rom-com 'genre' dead in the water. Well, no one seems to have told Marshall, who’s now created a follow-up holiday movie, much like a child would assemble a particularly mundane jigsaw puzzle of the hottest box-office stars of the moment.
The film, which takes place over one day and culminates in New York City’s Times Square, stars the head-spinning cast of Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank and Ludacris. Each is tangled in a relationship of some sort, be it familial, romantic or otherwise.
Some story threads are adequately entertaining, some extremely boring, and others nausea inducing, but put together no one comes out looking very good. The blueprint for this kind of movie was Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, which blended all of its various plots and characters fairly seamlessly, fleshing out the players that needed our sympathy and leaving the rest to provide padding and humour. New Year’s Eve has no such foresight, and, by providing them with equal screen time, doesn’t allow a single couple the room to breathe.
Hilary Swank as the newly instated vice president of the Times Square Alliance is served the best deal, and does her very best with what she's given. Barring a horribly sentimental speech we’re supposed to believe was made off the cuff, her story is the most interesting and even boosts proceedings with some mild peril. She’s helped out by Ludacris, but he’s not even given enough attention to let us know who he is. Her real relationship is one of the film’s big reveals, and I won’t spoil it here.
Everything else is borderline intolerable. Zac Efron has been slowly courting credible stardom, first with good performances in low-rate rom-coms (17 Again) and then in films like Me and Orson Welles, but here he's forced to take several steps backwards. Despite his charming demeanor and ever-so-pretty face, his attempts at playing a shallow, womanising 20-something just fall flat. He enters into a pact with Michelle Pfeiffer in an attempt to win the hottest ticket in town (quite how she secured them is never revealed), but first must help her accomplish a lifetimes worth of resolutions.
Like most of the film, this should be easy pickings. The efforts of a redeemable young man helping a regretful middle-aged woman achieve her ambitions sounds like the stuff of great feel-good guilty pleasure, but ends up unbelievable and grating. The same goes for Sarah Jessica Parker and Josh Duhamel’s meet-up at the film’s climax; we’ve spent the whole film setting up an epic romance, but the woman Duhamel describes is nothing like the SJP we’ve spent time with. It’s a relationship built for convenience, probably out of a process of elimination, and leaves the audience feeling cheated.
The awful-ness of the dialogue is highlighted by Sofia Vergara who, while often leaving you breathless with laughter on Modern Family, here just makes you want to bind and gag her for fear of the next ‘joke’. There really isn’t a single laugh here, only eliciting audible groans when a new cameo is revealed or another commercial message hits you in the face. Lea Michele, in a chance to break out of her stifling Glee role, just inhabits that same role in a different situation, and Ashton Kutcher does nothing to dissuade those recently acquired haters.
Love Actually was not a work of art, but when its successors fail so utterly to recapture the same heart-warming magic, it’s tempting to rate it above its worth. The more stars they cram into the frame, the less story and development each get, and the result is a mess of egos and 'types' fighting for your attention. With a little more care and attention, and a little less editing of the more endearing stories, New Year’s Eve could have been a nice holiday movie on the shelf of many a rom-com fan. As it stands, I don’t think even the most forgiving viewer could ignore its flaws, making it just another reason to leave the compilation genre in the dust.

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