Auld lang sigh

Posted on 08 Dec 2011 at 5:14pm

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

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There’s a long history of uniting big stars in a jam-packed ensemble cast. Sure, typically C-list celebrities met their fates in capsized ships and burning buildings, but there’s something about the combined star power of multiple marquee names that are irresistible draws.

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day. (By the time he gets to Cinco de Mayo, there’s gonna be nobody left but Charo, Justin Bieber and Cheech Marin.)

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

There’s nothing blatantly gay about the film, but plenty of gay-by-association appeal thanks to LGBT faves Swank, Parker, Michele, Efron and too-hot-for-TV Josh Duhamel. Sofia Vergara, the buxom star of Modern Family, is a great foil to the increasingly unlikable Katherine Heigl, whose character never really clicks with the audience.

What’s great about New Year’s Eve is Marshall’s way of leveling the playing field among his regular stars and mega-stars. Everybody gets equal billing, equal screen time, and for the most part, equally fun roles. That any holiday film delivers cloyingly sweet dramedy should be anticipated from the moment you plop a twenty down at the ticket window, but it sure would be nice to be caught off-guard with just a single moment that is completely organic and unexpected.

Alas, most of the stories’ conclusions could be predicted by a 10-year-old, but there’s such an earnestness and joy in the actors’ performances paired with their gosh-darn eye twinkles and larger-than-life charisma that make this movie worth at least a Prosecco toast, if not a half-glass of real champagne.

— Steven Lindsey

Three and a half stars.
Now playing in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

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