Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘New Year’s Eve’: Classic Hollywood froth

Trying to get a conventional cab on New Year’s Eve is impossible, so when Tess (Jessica Biel) suddenly must get to the hospital right now, lest she deliver her baby on the sidewalk, husband Griffin (Seth Meyers) does the best he can, and flags down a pedi-cab. Courtesy photo

By
From page A11 | December 09, 2011 |

“New Year’s Eve”

3.5 stars

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron and too many other folks to list here

Rating: PG-13, for fleeting profanity and some sexual candor

“New Year’s Eve” is a lighthearted throwback to classic Hollywood ensemble dramas such as 1932’s “Grand Hotel,” with star-laden casts that played isolated clusters of characters involved with their own little dramas.

Additionally, “New Year’s Eve” is very much like last year’s “Valentine’s Day,” also directed by Garry Marshall and co-written by Katherine Fugate, who assumes solo scripting chores this time.

And, as was the case with “Valentine’s Day,” Marshall’s newest effort will be embraced as a fun date flick by folks with romantic souls, and loudly dissed by cinematic snobs who can’t get beyond the calculated pretense and contrived star turns.

A pox on the latter’s houses, and may they be alone on New Year’s Eve.

Sometimes a movie is just a movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Marshall knows how to craft slick Hollywood product, and Fugate deftly sketches a dozen or so mini-dramas, adding just enough backstory — in most cases — to involve us with each set of characters.

And we can’t help being impressed by a cast that includes three Oscar-winning best actors, a couple more Oscar nominees and several dozen familiar faces from both television and the big screen. A few are notorious scene-stealers, but Marshall maintains a steady hand and somehow grants everybody equal time.

As the title suggests, the events take place during a single day in and around New York’s Times Square, as a massive cluster of humanity jams the streets in order to watch the big ball drop at the stroke of midnight. This year’s annual ceremony is being supervised by Claire (Hilary Swank), the newly promoted vice president of the Times Square Alliance.

She arrives early, with plenty of time to test the ball. Which — horrors! — gets stuck halfway up the massive pole, with only a few of its many lights flashing.

Elsewhere, the meek and pathologically repressed Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) — absolutely the last person who should be living in a big, bustling city — finally works up the courage to quit her job. Clutching a list of unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions from years past, she impulsively drafts Paul (Zac Efron) to help her cross off as many items as possible, before midnight.

But it’s a jaw-dropping list. Visit Bali? Save a life?

Rock superstar Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), scheduled to perform when (if?) the ball drops in Times Square, also has a private gig earlier in the evening: a high-profile party catered by Laura (Katherine Heigl), the woman he let get away a year earlier. Jensen wants to try again; Laura wants to slap his face off … much to the horror of her vivacious sous-chef, Ava (Sofia Vergara), who’d happily serve herself to Jensen.

Across town, holiday killjoy Randy (Ashton Kutcher) hates all the confetti, streamers and funny glasses; he’s above such nonsense. He gets stuck in the apartment elevator with Elise (Lea Michele, of television’s “Glee”). He’s not bothered — nowhere to be — but Elise is frantic, because she does have an important engagement across town.

Fifteen-year-old Hailey (Abigail Breslin) wants to attend the ball-drop, but her overly protective single mother, Kim (Sara Jessica Parker), would rather they stay home and watch the whole thing on TV. The well-dressed Sam (Josh Duhamel), driving in from New York’s outskirts, also needs to get to Times Square; his reasons are revealed slowly and tantalizingly.

The dying Stan (Robert De Niro) waits in a hospital bed, his one final wish — to watch the ball-drop from the roof — denied by his doctor (Cary Elwes). Ah, but Aimee (Halle Berry), a sympathetic nurse, promises to remain by his side.

And since this is a story where new life waits to take the place of old, two young pregnant couples have checked into the same hospital, both expecting — hoping, because of the attendant publicity — to deliver the new year’s first baby. Tess and Griffin (Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers) learn of this tradition, and its fat financial prize, from Grace and James (Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger). Competition ensues.

Have I forgotten anybody? Doesn’t matter; you get the general drift.

Some of these episodes play out reasonably well, with just enough narrative to sell the characters. The dueling pregnancies unfold quite amusingly; Biel also gets off the film’s funniest line — and the one responsible for the PG-13 rating — and her impeccable delivery of said line is explosive, unexpected and hilarious.

Alternatively, much as I adore the concept of Ingrid’s “bucket list” of resolutions, Pfeiffer never persuasively inhabits her character, or sells her relationship with Efron’s (mostly) solicitous Paul. Pfeiffer’s performance is stiffer than Ingrid herself; it feels too much like acting.

Berry, in great contrast, is amazing; she smoothly slips into Aimee’s skin and delivers the film’s most heartfelt performance.

Kutcher, having made a trademark of seemingly reluctant charmers, is right at home with the laid-back Randy. And yes, Michele’s Elise gets to sing: not just once, but thrice, most dramatically with a climactic solo that her television counterpart, Rachel Berry, would endorse.

As was the case with “Valentine’s Day,” some of these ostensibly separate stories converge, and a few of the apparently random characters wind up tied to others. Marshall and Fugate also recycle another essential element of their formula, by toying with our expectations and then gently moving in an unexpected direction.

The surprises aren’t quite as clever as those involving Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper, in “Valentine’s Day,” but they’re no less satisfying.

Yes, Marshall is shameless at times; yes, Fugate’s script can be blatantly manipulative. And yes, sometimes the spot-the-star game gets out of hand, particularly when the likes of Alyssa Milano, Penny Marshall and James Belushi simply wander through quick scenes.

But who cares? Fans of machine-gun dumb comedies will argue that even if nine jokes in 10 are duds, that last one’s enough of a zinger to make the film worthwhile. Well, the same is true of “New Year’s Eve”: Unless you’re perversely stubborn, at least a few of these little playlets will charm and entertain, and the rest certainly aren’t hard to endure.

Besides, I’d love to think that Claire’s speech — delivered with unexpected earnestness by Swank — could resonate, even a little, in these trying times.

That’s what the movies are all about: making us forget our troubles, even if only for two hours.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com

Comments

comments

.

News

 
Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Bauer garden marks one year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Grande site has been a convoluted saga

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

.

Forum

Already made herself at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

 
Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Keep our green waste piles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
How to make a good living

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Health problems mean he’s checked out

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

 
This epidemic should scare us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

.

Sports

Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

 
Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

 
California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

 
Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

.

Obituaries

Wanda P. Daley

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8