Nonstop Movies: ‘New Year’s Eve’

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I’ve never been a big New Year’s Eve guy. My family always felt it was important to bring in the New Year together, so my New Year’s Eves usually consist of dinner at home, followed by watching Korean end-of-the-year award ceremonies on TV, then switching to Dick Clark at 11:55 p.m. to watch the ball drop at Times Square. The only New Year’s kiss I ever got was from my own mother. Sad, isn’t it?

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t fall in love with “New Year’s Eve,” the follow-up to director Garry Marshall’s successful “Valentine’s Day.” Both have the same format — tons of A-list movie stars, a holiday theme, innocent humor and stories of love. But while I truly enjoyed “Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” did nothing for me.

Movies that can make you believe in love, like “Valentine’s Day,” are powerful. In fact, my girlfriend at the time leaned over and kissed me as soon as the credits started rolling. Although critics dismissed “Valentine’s Day” as saccharine fluff, I liked seeing famous pretty people falling in love on the big screen. That’s what movies are for, to let audiences escape into a fictional world, where the unlikely can happen.

But “New Year’s Eve” is too far fetched. There’s a scene where Katherine Heigl throws a bunch of eggs at a wall in disgust, and I paralleled that with the screenwriters taking a bunch of storylines and jokes and throwing them against a figurative wall to see if anything stuck. They probably figured that with all the A-list talent on screen, the audience wouldn’t care about plot, and if at least one of the stories worked, they’d have another hit.

Yes, there are a lot of talented and famous people in the cast — Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Josh Duhamel, Jon Bon Jovi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker for starters. Their characters repeatedly talk about second chances, fresh starts and finding true love with the New Year, but none of the stories work, and some are plain ludicrous. Oh yeah, he’s (Ludacris) in the movie too. Not to mention that the laws of time don’t seem to exist in this movie, as everyone gets where they need to be, despite leaving last minute and having to traverse the most crowded city in the nation on its busiest night. I just couldn’t buy any of it.

The only positive is that De Niro is acting again, and I don’t mean merely appearing in a movie. I mean truly acting. Despite his silly storyline (a dying man wishes to see the ball drop one last time), his portrayal is moving and a nice surprise after his recent slate of films, where he appeared to be simply cashing a paycheck. In fact, the scenes between De Niro and Berry (who also gives a great performance as De Niro’s nurse) are the best in the film by far. Much credit must be given to them for bringing their best in such a shallow film.

Too bad the rest of the people behind this film couldn’t do the same.

“New Year’s Eve,” 118 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday.