New Year’s Eve (review)

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Ashton Kutcher New Year's Eve red light

Resolution: Avoid

What are you doing New Year’s eve? Not seeing this cheap, lazy excuse for a movie, I hope. In fact, I’m begging you: please don’t give Hollywood any reason to do this again for a third time. Because the first time — last year’s Valentine’s Day — was a terrible stew of romantic-comedy clichés as roughly 327 “adorably” mismatched and powerfully annoying celebrity couples ran around Los Angeles being wacky and lovelorn: it was a rom-com that was all horrible protagonists you’d kill yourself to avoid being stuck in an elevator with, and no cool best-friend characters that you wondered why the movie wasn’t about them. Because for this second time out, no one is even bothering to pretend they’re trying to do anything other than pick your pocket of $12.50 plus popcorn, which they’re able to do because they know how desperate you are to see bland, personality-free celebs engaging in holiday lovey-dovey. God knows what circle of cinematic hell Arbor Day or Thanksgiving or Fourth of July will cast us into. Please don’t let it come to that.

It would be a step in the right direction if New Year’s Eve could aspire to be phony and manipulative. It fails to rise to even that level of incompetence, and it’s happy with its stupidity. Director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate, reteaming from VD, are just pulling shit confetti out of the air here: she appears to know nothing of human behavior or interaction, and he appears to have heard of New York City as only a distant rumor. How do we know we’re in New York? A random construction worker walks through a scene. There’s a lot of slapping going on — that’s what crazy heartbroken women do to men, you see — as well as completely unironic deployments of both hoo-ha and va-jay-jay to indicate a woman’s sexual parts… one of which is uttered by an adult woman referring to herself. It’s like this was written by a child whose only knowledge of the world and its people comes from… well, Valentine’s Day.

It’s all taking place on the last day of the year 2011 — not that that stopped Marshall from using some footage from the actual Times Square New Year’s celebrations on December 31, 2010, without bothering to CGI-change the damn dates on revelers’ party hats — during which an array of balloon-animal approximations of human beings will do things no authentic human being would. Such as Michelle Pfeiffer’s (Stardust) bizarrely “mousy” Ingrid, who will enlist Zac Efron’s (Charlie St. Cloud) jaw-droppingly unconvincing “street” messenger to fulfill all of her lifelong New Year’s resolutions in a single day. These include such impossible specific things as “Travel to Bali” and such impossible vague things as “Be amazed,” and she will pout and instruct him — a total stranger — to “use [his] imagination” in order to service her. And she gets away with this absurdity.

I’d say that deeply strained subplot was the most painfully contrived thing I’d ever seen, except I’ve seen the rest of New Year’s Eve. There’s Hilary Swank’s (Amelia) city executive in charge of the ball drop, out of whose mouth falls some of the most false and feeble attempts at feel-goodery ever committed to film, twaddle about how people say there’s no beauty in the world except on New Year’s eve, and how second chances expire at midnight… because, I guess, the world ends then. (Swank, to her credit, looks like she’s smelling shit every time she appears on camera. To her uncredit, she appears on camera and says these lines.) There’s Josh Duhamel (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), who’s trying to get into Manhattan from Connecticut because he made a date with an anonymous lady on the previous December 31 and she’s the woman of his dreams he just knows it… and the film will hold us in “suspense” as to which of the celeb cameos he’s hoping to run into again. And as if that weren’t ridiculous enough, the movie concocts the most unlikely road accident ever so that it can toss Duhamel into an RV with a supposedly madcap family for the road trip. (Why he doesn’t just get a taxi to the train into Manhattan remains unanswered. How the hell anyone would achieve the insanity of driving an RV into Manhattan on New Year’s eve — or, indeed, ever — is left unexplored.)

There’s Jessica Biel’s (The A-Team) expectant mother, who has obviously been planning for the most natural childbirth possible but then engages in all sorts of strange behavior in order to induce labor so she can win prize money for having the first baby of the new year: it is “charming” and “funny,” you see, when a mother would endanger her own baby like this. There’s Jon Bon Jovi’s (Pay It Forward) rock star — he seriously needs to stick to music — who’s trying to woo back chef Katherine Heigl (Life as We Know It). (Oh, you didn’t think you would escape this flick without encountering the current queen of awful rom-coms, did you? Sarah Jessica Parker [I Don’t Know How She Does It] is in this, too. I’m not even kidding.) There’s Ashton Kutcher’s (Killers) grinch, stuck in an elevator (yes, you will want to kill yourself to avoid this), who will learn the true meaning of New Year’s eve. And if you never figured Kutcher for much of an actor, wait till you see what it looks like when he’s phoning it in.

None of these “characters” — and oh, there are so many more — are in the least bit likeable. Their “stories” range from unpleasant to implausible to downright illogical. There’s isn’t a single genuine human feeling to be had here.

Except rage. I’m feeling that one fairly strongly.

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