[Screen It]


(2011) (Hilary Swank, Katherine Heigl) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: Various people contend with their various issues as they count down the hours until midnight on New Year's Eve.
It's New Years Eve in New York City and Claire (HILARY SWANK) is the new Vice President of the Times Square Alliance, and her job today is to make sure the giant ball drops on schedule at midnight. With the aid of police officer Brendan (CHRIS "LUDACRIS" BRIDGES) she seems to have things in control, but when the ball ends up stuck during testing, she hopes they can convince former maintenance wizard Kominsky (HECTOR ELIZONDO) to show up and fix things.

She's also hired rock star Jensen (JON BON JOVI) to perform at the festivities, but he's preoccupied with the fact that he formerly proposed to caterer Laura (KATHERINE HEIGL) but then got cold feet. While she isn't happy to see him, her eager and sultry sous chef, Ava (SOFIA VERGARA), certainly is. Another woman, Elise (LEA MICHELE), also wants to see Jensen, but that's because she's one of his new backup singers. Unfortunately for her, she's stuck in a stopped elevator with comic book artist Randy (ASHTON KUTCHER) who doesn't like anything about New Year's Eve.

On the other hand, his best friend and courier, Paul (ZAC EFRON), is far more upbeat, and he gets an offer that might make his night outstanding. Record label employee Ingrid (MICHELLE PFEIFFER) has her hands on tickets to a big party, and she says she'll give them to him in exchange for helping her fulfill a number of potentially challenging resolutions she wants to make come true.

Sam (JOSH DUHAMEL) is also desirous of getting to that party, but after a minor car wreck, he must hitch a ride with a family headed to Times Square in their RV. As they travel along, he wonders if the stranger he met one year ago will show up as promised. Speaking of showing up, Griffin (SETH MEYERS) and Tess (JESSICA BIEL) are hoping that their baby will arrive right around midnight, so they can collect a prize of $25,000 if their child is the first born in the new year. They must contend, however, with James (TIL SCHWEIGER) and his pregnant wife who are desirous of the same thing.

Kim (SARAH JESSICA PARKER) doesn't have any newborns at home, but she does have 15-year-old daughter Hailey (ABIGAIL BRESLIN) who desperately wants to head into the city in order to be with the boy, Seth (JAKE T. AUSTIN) she likes. Her mom, though, doesn't think that's a good idea, much like a doctor (CARY ELWES) doesn't think his terminally ill cancer patient, Stan (ROBERT DE NIRO), she be allowed up on the hospital roof for one last view of the ball dropping. As a result, his nurse, Aimee (HALLE BERRY), stays close by to make sure Stan's last hours are as comfortable as possible.

As the hours count down toward midnight, all of those people try to resolve their various issues.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
I've always found it interesting that it's right around New Year's Eve or New Year's Day that people make most of their resolutions about changing their lives in one or more ways. I guess it's the "new year, new me" mindset, but there's really no better time than the present to decide, commit and immediately set into action your plan.

Of course, the vast majority of people, despite the best of intentions, either don't follow through with their personal transformation or, worse yet, even start with some sort of first step. And then they wait until the following New Year's Eve to do it all over again. I guess we can chalk it up to human nature, but people should really view each month, week and day as the chance for a fresh start.

Characters make choices that change their lives in various ways in the romantic comedy "New Year's Eve," but the resolution I'd like to see all of the cast and crew commit to is to never make such a bloated and useless piece of dreck like this again. Filled with more recognizable celebrity faces than most any issue of People Magazine, the film is rife with a bevy of characters and their subplot stories. Yet, there are so many of them that none get the amount of attention they need to engage or entertain us.

But that really shouldn't came as much of a surprise considering that the film arrives from the hands of director Garry Marshall who also helmed the similarly overloaded and mostly unenjoyable "Valentine's Day" a few years ago. Since he's essentially made the same movie -- albeit set on a different holiday and with different characters and performers (although Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel return, playing different parts) -- I easily could have similarly recycled my review for that prior film, changed a few names and events, and come out with the same thing.

And that's especially true since the same problems that bedeviled that rom-com also afflict this one. With eight subplots in play, Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate simply don't have the time or -- apparently -- interest in and/or ability to bring much depth, warmth, heart or pretty much anything else positive to those stories or the characters within them.

In fact, it really just boils down to a guessing game as to what notable face is next going to show up in one of those many mini tales. It gets to the point that you start to see the picture as some sort of cinematic ark and much of Hollywood (including the usual contingent who appears in the director's films) has crowded onboard to avoid some sort of calamity.

Of course, little do they know they're appearing in the disaster. That would have been an okay thing if the pic was designed just as that, something my mind wandered to while waiting for this ordeal to play out, midnight to arrive in the story, and release me into the night. It might have been fun (and certainly would have been more interesting) had any number of past movie monsters or disaster related scenarios shown up to take care of matters. After all, the huge cast and all of the mini-stories certainly have the look and feel of disaster flicks of old.

Alas, King Kong, Godzilla and even the tidal wave of "The Day After Tomorrow" never show up to liven or at least shake things up. Granted, it would have been cheaper -- from a production standpoint -- to simply bring in talent behind the camera who could actually do something with the material. As stated in the "Valentine's Day" review, this one's also going for the magic that worked in "Love Actually" but similarly fails at understanding how and why that pic worked.

And like "VD," the only marginally enjoyable part of this flick occurs during the end credits outtakes where the usual goofs and acting up actually generates some genuine laughs. In that regard, it's almost as if the film exists solely to set up those late scenes. But trust me, it's not worth your time, money or attention to sit through the preceding 110-some minutes just to get to that material.

Considering the earlier film performed decently at the box office and this one will likely follow suit, I fear we'll be subjected in the coming years to "Halloween" and "Independence Day." Oh wait, we already have, but at least those films recognized they were, respectively, a horror and disaster offering. "New Year's Eve" simply doesn't realize it's a combination of both and blindly sets forth like it's some grand piece of entertainment. It isn't, and one can only hope that enough viewers make a resolution not to support cinematic flotsam like this. The pic rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed December 5, 2011 / Posted December 9, 2011

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