New Year’s Eve is all about the excess

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Starring Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Robert De Niro. Rated PG. Now playing

New Year’s Eve is the perfect movie for the season of too much gingerbread, eggnog, tinsel, and champagne. Director Garry Marshall subscribes to the theory of more is better, with his multiple plots and crowded cast coming off like the cinematic equivalent of an overstuffed turducken.

It’s easier to list who doesn’t star in his candy cane–sweet confection than who does. I didn’t see Johnny Depp, Steve Buscemi, or James Belushi. No, wait a minute: Belushi has a split-second cameo as a building super. My bad.

You can feel the all-stars straining to bring emotional weight to a movie whose squeaky-clean sentiments feel dated and cliched. At the centre, providing supposed tension, is Hilary Swank as the VP of the Times Square Alliance. She’s trying to deal with the fact that the giant dropping ball is busted (cue workmen yelling, “We have to get this fixed by midnight!”). Other threads involve Sarah Jessica Parker as an overprotective mom whose daughter wants to spend December 31st in the square; Zac Efron—one of the movie’s only bright lights—as a courier helping Michelle Pfeiffer’s lonely spinster live out her bucket list; and two couples battling to win $25,000 for giving birth to the first baby of the year.

The unluckiest of the lot must be Robert De Niro (how the mighty have fallen!) in a maudlin plot about a dying cancer guy who yearns to see the fireworks over Times Square for one last time. But then there’s also Katherine Heigl as a chef overseeing a huge catering event while her rock-star ex-fiance (Jon Bon Jovi) tries to woo her back. (The latter delivers not one, but two excruciating “concert” moments that your granddad might think of as rock ‘n’ roll.) There’s more. Much more. We haven’t even touched on Ashton Kutcher slacking off in a stuck elevator.

Just like he did in the equally overpopulated Valentine’s Day, Marshall presents an alternate fairy-tale universe. The movie opens with a line about “the entire world coming together on one night to celebrate the hope of a New Year”. Many spend it crying into their Baby Duck in front of the boob tube, but whatever.

You can’t imagine the relief that comes from watching Jessica Biel, playing a fully contracting pregnant woman, finally drop the film’s first (and only) f-bomb. The rest is all Hallmark, all the time.


Watch the trailer for New Year's Eve.

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