New Year’s Eve follows various storylines as people begin to pile into New York City to watch the ball drop at midnight. Two expecting couples compete for cash by trying to have the first New Year’s baby. A man dying in a hospital wants to live long enough to see the ball drop one last time. A mother is at odds with her teenage daughter who is trying to experience more freedom. A socially awkward woman quits her unrewarding job and bribes a bike courier to help her check off her bucket list in one night. Two strangers who shared a magical night the year before have to decide whether or not to see one another again. A singer and cynic are stuck in an elevator together, and a chef comes face to face with the rock star who broke her heart. Oh! And the woman in charge of the ever important ball drop faces a stressful work issue when the ball malfunctions.
Like Garry Marshall’s other movies set entirely on one day (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day), a lot of these stories intertwine, revealing various connections throughout the movie. It has a somewhat impressive cast – De Niro, Pfeiffer, Berry – though it’s not without its weak links – Michele, Vergara, Bon Jovi. The problem with New Year’s Eve is that while it boasts of some big names, it has no substance. The script is bland, the dialogue is basic and schmaltzy. Other than Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron (who are the only reason why this movie is at least getting half a star), none of these storylines are remotely interesting, nor are the characters. There is no time to get to know anyone in this movie or empathize with them. It’s not impossible to have a quality ensemble film that follows various storylines, but New Year’s Eve lacked the kind of script and execution that might have made this a successful, or at least a tolerable, film.
In a way, it felt like this movie was just an excuse to boast about the cast list. Everyone needed their screentime, whether they did anything worthwhile on screen or not. I realize I’m probably being unnecessarily harsh, but I adore Garry Marshall. He’s directed some amazing films and iconic romantic comedies. So it was difficult to grasp that the same man who directed Pretty Woman and Beaches was the same man behind the camera for this drivel.
As I generally say with these films – cut out the bloat, focus on three or four storylines, and devote time to those characters. Make us care, make us eager and excited to see how those lives intersect, and how those stories will conclude. It’s fine to have a handful of big name actors to appeal to audiences, but don’t waste their talent on such a messy, joyless film. New Year’s Eve isn’t even mindless entertainment. It’s just mindless.