The world hasn’t seen name-dropping all-star casts like this since the disaster-movie binge of the ’70s. But is New Year’s Eve (due Tuesday from Warner) a disaster?
Not really, despite scathing reviews and a tepid total domestic box office of $54 million. The film should play better on video, anyway, since it’s not about spectacle so much as sentiment — though often to a fault.
OK, director Garry Marshall (culprit of the similar and even lesser Valentine’s Day) isn’t as amusing and charming as he used to be. But he runs a fun set, and the huge cast clearly enjoyed this romp through NYC on Dec. 31, with many (too many) stories and characters entwining as the film leads up to the big Times Square “Happy New Year!”
So your patience for this picture will depend on your openness to such sentiment — something you can’t expect many critics to buy. Thus, forget the reviews and ask yourself if you want to see a favorite star or two in a predictable romantic comedy with less laughs than heart tugs.
For me, part of the appeal was seeing Lea Michele in her first true big-screen role, playing a backing singer to an absurdly named rock star, Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi). She gets stuck in an elevator with a scruffy — make that sleazy-looking — Ashton Kutcher (in his early Two and a Half Men mode) and needs to get to Times Square to warble at midnight and ring in 2012 with heart, hope — and a tight red dress.
Michele is fine, and so is Michelle Pfeiffer in a virtual reprise of her Batman Returns role as Selina Kyle, pre-Catwoman — a mousy woman abused at work who finds a connection with a fast-talking, cocky but sympathetic courier well played by Zac Efron.
The star list goes on and on, including such Oscar winners as Halle Berry, Robert De Niro and Hilary Swank and such Marshall troupers as Hector Elizondo — and that’s just the tip of the party-night ice sculpture. With Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel also in the mix, this cast is as top-heavy as Sofia Vergara — did I mention she also appears?
Either you’re in the mood or in the spirit for this sort of feel-good frolic, or you’re not. If not, avoid. If so, you could do worse for entertainment. And for Blu-ray and DVD, you get an elaborate (with title cards and score) 11-minute outtakes presentation introduced by Marshall.
A few of these appear in the end-credits, but there’s much more here in the form of bloopers and on-set cut-ups, and it’s some of the most fun of the production, especially Pfeiffer and Efron in a carefree dance.
Too bad the movie proper wasn’t as amusing, but I’ll still take New Year’s Eve for a date night at home.
And I’ll take Auld Lang Syne sung by Michele, who could make the phone book sound soulful. (Be sure and catch the fuller soundtrack version.)
OK — busted. She’s the main reason I wanted to see this. Perhaps you’ll have your own. With a cast this big, it’s hard to miss.
All together now: 10, 9, 8, 7 , 6 , 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Happy New Year’s Eve!
— Bruce Westbrook
Tags: Lea Michele