As weird as it was to see a movie about New Year’s when everyone’s thinking about Christmas, and as underwhelmed as I was by Valentine’s Day, I chose to see New Year’s Eve this week because my only other option was The Sitter. So read this review and file the information away for that period between Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone’s actually thinking about what to do on the big day. With an ensemble movie like this, it’s almost impossible to write a good logline. The closest you can get is:
A bunch of people (who are kind of sort of vaguely connected to each other sometimes) have trouble with relationships on New Year’s Eve.
It’s really easy to make a bland ensemble movie, because with so many characters it can be hard to balance character development, screen time, and plot payoffs. Love Actually, the Christmas movie that started the recent holiday ensemble trend, managed it really, really well. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, did not. I expected New Year’s Eve to be more of the same, because it was the same writer (Katherine Fugate) and director (Garry Marshall). But I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much, much funnier.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still too much going on, which means hardly any of the characters get enough plot development to fill even a five minute short film. There are too many characters to list even in a review, and I remember approximately zero of their names, so I’ll just refer to them by their actors’ names. Probably the most prominent in terms of screen time are Michelle Pfeiffer, a shy record company assistant, and Zac Efron, the bike messenger she hires to help her work through her bucket list in one night, which requires some creative thinking.
Walk all five boroughs in a single day. Check!
I’m really trying hard not to like Zac Efron. I want to scoff at him for the High School Musical thing and make fun of the face fuzz he grew to try and make himself look like a grown up, but watching him dance up a storm with a stodgy old lady (that’s a new role for Pfeiffer, eh?) makes me realize I just can’t do it. He’s too nice.
Awww. But don’t think you’re getting on the Awesome List, Efron!!
The other major storylines are Jon Bon Jovi (playing a character that is so obviously Jon Bon Jovi that they may as well have named his character Ron Von Hovi) trying to get back together with Katherine Heigl, his angry caterer ex-girlfriend…
I know, I just can’t see it either.
… Josh Duhamel trying to get into the city to give a big speech at an unspecified party (which you know will be the same party everyone else is working on) and waffling over whether to go to a pizza place at midnight to meet a mysterious girl he kissed last year (the identity of this girl is the film’s major secret)….
This is Josh Duhamel we’re talking about though, so whoever it is, she won’t be good enough.
Apparently they wired it in series, just like your stupid Christmas lights
Oh it is ON now!
I had my heart broken on a holiday, blah blah blah.
There are also a giant pile of secondary storylines. Sarah Jessica Parker is trying to get her daughter Abigail Breslin to hang out with her on New Year’s instead of running off to kiss that boy from The Wizards of Waverly Place.
What do you mean I’m not cool and you wish I was dead??
Just let me… star in one last… stupid Fokkers film…
… and so on and so forth. There’s no gay one this time, which is statistically improbable given the number of people involved, but there are a few “surprises” which are mostly the same ones as in Valentine’s Day.
Also, did they film an actual New Year’s or just ask all these people to turn up and help them fake one??
So what made it worth watching? Sofia Vegara. She plays Katherine Heigl’s sous chef. She doesn’t have a relationship subplot of her own, but she does provide commentary on the Bon Jovi/Katherine Heigl mess and almost every one of her lines had me in stitches.
“In my country, when a man gets down on one knee, it’s because he wants
to get married. Or because he’s been shot.”
There’s also the competing baby parents hilarity. Til Schweiger shouts at Sarah Paulson’s vagina. Seth Meyers freaks out over his wife’s labor, realizing they need to “go downstairs where the cars live” to catch a cab to the hospital, and of course the hospital staff themselves: “May the best va jay-jay win!” But my favorite was a side side plot involving “Piper’s Mom,” the mother of one of Abigail Breslin’s friends, who keeps cropping up everywhere in her attempts to spy on her daughter.
They rip off the “who says there’s no love in the world” voiceover that was used in Love Actually and a lot of the characters and plots are recycled from Valentine’s Day, but because of the comedy, I still enjoyed it, and I think you will too. 200 Cigarettes is the better New Year’s movie (and it’s ensemble, as well) but if you want to see something on the big screen, New Year’s Eve isn’t a waste of money.