Claire Morgan (Hillary Swank) is in charge of overseeing the celebrations in Times Square, but faces anxiety when the giant ball set to drop at midnight malfunctions on the way up. Jon Bon Jovi plays Jensen, the rock star hired by Swank to be the feature entertainment. He is distracted when he tries to make amends with his former girlfriend, Laura (Katherine Heigl), the evening’s caterer. Two couples, played by Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers and Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger, battle for the prize money awarded by a hospital to the parents of the first baby born in the New Year. Abigail Breslin is frustrated that her overprotective mother (Sarah Jessica Parker) won’t let her accompany her friends (and her crush) to Times Square. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michelle are stuck in a lift together, while Zac Efron, a courier and hoodlum, helps a lonely and miserable older woman (Michelle Pfieffer) complete a list of resolutions before the end of the year. These are just some of the 'exciting' vignettes that transpire over the duration of New Year’s Eve.
The stories are chopped together haphazardly and there is little effort made to establish rhythm or maintain continuity or temporality. We are thrown from one to the other, and though we learn a few things about each of the characters along the way – we don’t really care about what happens. Seeing Robert De Niro on his deathbed (and final wish to see the ball drop in Times Square one more time) was sad, and Halle Berry’s tearful midnight reunion with her partner from military service was also quite moving, but really, none of the stories break convention (a lonely person seeking to accomplish some last-minute revolutions, another hoping to meet their midnight kiss partner - possibly ‘the one’ - from the year before) or prove to be particularly interesting. They are both intentionally and unintentionally corny and unravel in predictable fashion.
There are some surprises and twists along the way, mostly as to whom the mysterious woman Josh Duhamel’s character is hoping to meet up with. The fact that I was fooled not once but twice can be more attributed to me just disregarding the eventual individual as a suspect, than a successful mislead. Some of the characters don’t do anything (hello Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) while others are stuck in perplexing situations that slow their stories to a crawl. There are even cameos to the cameos (Cary Elwes, Carla Gugino, James Belushi, Alyssa Milano, and even Matthew Broderick pop up for a line or two) just to pad the film with recognizable faces and poor acting. I feel I should have recognized Sienna Miller though, right?
Look, New Years Eve is not unpleasant viewing (well, lumping this cast together in the same film qualifies as unpleasant, I guess) but it is way too eager to please, and watching these individual tales unfold over the course of a single day/night fails to muster many laughs or at any time adequately engage the viewer. At a tough 118 minutes it’s also way too long. In it’s juggling of too many stories, and meager attempts to build emotional depth, several of the arcs do start to drag poorly. The way the film shifts between the stories is disastrously uneven too.
In the end, New Year’s Eve is a light, warm-hearted romcom that exists to make viewers happy, serve up unrealistic romances between attractive people and ensure that all of the character’s glorified dreams about New Year’s Eve have been met by the end of the night, likely causing some gullible viewers to believe that a similar send off to 2011 will happen for them. That's all okay, but it’s not for me. Undoubtedly, it will still attract many viewers from it's specific target audience. But with an overly sentimental finale and what seem suspiciously like ‘scripted bloopers’ accompanying the credits, the horrors don’t let up. With the exception of a few of the cast who seem to have fun and an impressive Times Square centerpiece (at least in scale), this is a film with few commendable qualities.
My Rating: ★ (D)