Movie Review: “New Year’s Eve”

Written by Melissa MacAulay December 17, 2011

I was counting down the whole time… to when I would be able to leave the theatre.

Let’s be honest… This was never going to be the next Love Actually. But, oh, how it tried. Much like Marshall’s earlier film, Valentine’s Day, this film is based on the Love Actually formula of several, loosely connected storylines involving romance, family, heartbreak, and second chances. It even features the requisite voiceover epilogue and prologue about how, despite what people think, the world is somehow a beautiful place, full of hope. Unfortunately, these similarities can’t make up for bad writing and characters that range from uninteresting to downright annoying (even if they are played by a bunch of famous people).

VP of Times Square Alliance Claire (Hilary Swank) is trying desperately to oversee the New Year’s Eve ball-drop at Times Square, and along the way ends up enlisting the help of a few utterly forgettable characters, such as security guard Brandon (Ludacris), and an electrician named Kominsky (Hector Elizondo). Meanwhile, secretary Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) quits her job and offers delivery boy Paul (Zac Efron) two tickets to the hottest New Year’s Eve party to help her fulfill all of her resolutions before midnight. Watching nerdy British characters such as Colin Frissel (Love Actually) try to impress women is somewhat entertaining; watching Zac Efron do it just makes me substantially annoyed.

While this is going on, cranky, misanthropic comic-book illustrator Randy (Ashton Kutcher) gets stuck in an elevator with the beautiful, socially apt, aspiring singer Elise (Lea Michele, from Glee). What an unconventional clashing of worlds! What on Earth will happen? This storyline features a truly cringe-worthy musical scene (although, not for lack of talent) that somehow managed to make me deeply embarrassed on behalf of Lea Michele, myself, all of the other paying patrons in the theatre. I would have been more comfortable watching Wild Things with my mom. Randy, on the other hand, is awe-struck by Elise’s performance, and – well, I wouldn’t want to give away the ending, now would I?

Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Kim, is the single mother of 15 year old Hailey (Abigail Breslin, previously seen in Little Miss Sunshine). I’m pretty sure the relationship between these two is supposed to be cute, heart-warming, and down-to-earth. But if my teenage daughter ever told me that I needed a man, and that my problem was that I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I’m pretty sure I would have to be physically restrained from smacking her in the face with a hardcover copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. But maybe that’s just me.

Speaking of singing, let’s not forget Jon Bon Jovi’s role as pop icon Jensen. While preparing for his New Year’s Eve gig at Times Square, Jensen attempts to rekindle the flame between himself and ex-girlfriend Laura the chef (Katherine Heigl). Watching these characters interact is like reading a highly summarized version of a terrible romance novel. Jensen: “Laura… It’s me, Jensen, the wildly famous pop icon that is also your ex-boyfriend who left you last New Year’s Eve just after we got engaged and moved in together. How are you?” Luckily for Jensen, all it takes for him to win Laura back is a scene in which he serenades her with what is possibly the most insufferable song ever to be sung by Bon Jovi.

This film also tries its best to invoke crying. Much like the rest of the film, however, these sorts of attempts are less than subtle. Every sure-fire tear-jerker is featured in this film, from a dying man in a hospital bed, whose dying wish is to watch the Times Square ball-drop with his estranged daughter, to a beautiful young woman who caresses a computer screen that displays her lover, a soldier at war overseas, who tells her that he is coming home soon.

I should note, I suppose, that not absolutely everything in this film was so terrible. For example, the blooper reel during the ending credits is mildly funny. Also, there is a scene with a bunch of newborn babies, and who doesn’t like newborn babies? There is also a cute puppy at one point. Aside from this, however, it’s pretty hard to come up with reasons for you to go see this film.

Need I say more? I was only hoping for something light, fluffy, and mildly entertaining, but New Year’s Eve failed on all fronts. You’d do better just to stay in, get yourself some microwaveable popcorn, and pop Love Actually into the DVD player. You know you want to…

My Rating: 3/10

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About Melissa MacAulay

Melissa is a PhD student in philosophy. When she is not busy publishing wildly successful books and making earth-shattering contributions to her field, she enjoys travelling, eating chocolate, playing with pugs, and writing film reviews.

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