Opting for the dubious designing of a movie that embraces quantity over quality character development, Garry Marshall has assembled a more-than-you-can-count abundance of celeb cameos for his Valentine’s Day cut and paste follow-up extravaganza, New Year’s Eve. And whether attempting to mirror or even somewhat rival the throngs materializing in Times Square for that annual ritual, the crowded playing field of stars has hardly enough screen space and time to breathe, while just barely avoiding bumping into one another during the scene switching, jigsaw dissolve and recap of hyperactively alternating scenes.
Which leads to the task at hand that is not so much a deciphering of interlocking narrative details, but rather where does one begin. Relying on that storytelling weapon of choice contrivance of strangers who either coincidentally all meet up at the end or knew each other all along – wouldn’t you just know it – the movie’s indulgence in that flavor of the month narrative model is repeatedly verging on being too cute for its own good.
But we digress – actually quite in keeping with the New Year’s Eve chaotic collection of episodic plot points. Michelle Pfeiffer is a moody unappreciated office worker peeved at her boss for his stingy pittance holiday bonus, so she quits and hires a wild child young messenger (Zac Efron) to spiff up her dull life. Elsewhere Hilary Swank is freaking out over her job too, which is managing the dropping of the ball in Times Square at midnight. And at the same time, sulking party pooper Ashton Kutcher gets stuck for hours in an elevator with vivacious backup singer Lia Michele, who is determined to resist the moping misanthrope’s claustrophobic gloom and doom vibes.
Meanwhile Katherine Heigl as a crabby caterer won’t speak to Jon Bon Jovi’s remorseful reigning rock star who abandoned her a year ago, as Sarah Jessica Parker’s exasperated single mom nags defiant teen daughter Abigail Breslin on schedule during breaks between the hide and seek disjointed vignettes. This, as Jessica Biel competes with pregnant rivals to clock in with the first baby of the year. Advisory: the film will present a major challenge to the attention deficit disordered in the audience.
Mystifyingly undercooked and overwrought at the very same time, New Year’s Eve and its persistent juggling act does contain at least two plot threads which, lean as they are, pause for a moment to capture the simultaneously exhilarating and pensive moods of the holiday in question. Including Halle Berry as a beyond the call of duty attending nurse to a gravely ill patient played by Robert De Niro. And reliably whimsical tease Sarah Jessica Parker, assigned to stealing the show with a magically secretive finale.
2 1/2 stars