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The Independent Critic

Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Frankie Muniz, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Halle Berry, Sofia Vergara, Zac Efron, Hilary Swank, Sienna Miller, Sara Paxton
Garry Marshall
Katherine Fugate
Rated PG-13
118 Mins.
Warner Brothers
commentary by Marshall and gag reel; also, on Blu-ray, "Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele Rock New Year's Eve" (the collaboration of the rocker and "Glee" star, with producer Don Was, from the recording studio to the set to a live Times Square performance); "The Magic of Times Square" (a history); and "New Year's Eve Secrets of the Stars" (cast members dish on their best/worst Dec. 31 celebrations) and deleted scenes.

 "New Year's Eve" Review 
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You just had to go see Valentine's Day, didn't you?

Just because a studio advertises a film as a romantic comedy doesn't mean it's an actual romantic comedy, but you couldn't tell that from the audiences who poured into the theatre to catch Garry Marshall's last film, the uninspired and just plain dreadfully bad Valentine's Day. Because you rewarded Marshall by drinking the Kool-Aid, Marshall is back with yet another lover's holiday, New Year's Eve.

What's next? Arbor Day - Ashton Gets a Woodie?

It pains me to say this, but if you actually liked Valentine's Day then there's a pretty darn good chance that you'll find yourself enjoying New Year's Eve, another excuse for gathering a slew of Hollywood stars whose roles are underwritten or non-existent and having them wax with faux eloquently and obsessively about the importance of New Year's Eve, which I'm sure does actually hold more importance in Times Square than it does on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis.

Do people actually care about New Year's Eve? Why is it even considered a holiday? Are we celebrating the chance to start over or the fact that yet another screwed up year is finished? What's the obsession with kissing in another year with someone who we will likely never see again?

I'm betting Ashton and Demi kissed in more than a few New Year's Eve's. Look where it got them.

I have always heard that Garry Marshall is one of Hollywood's truly nice guys, a rarity in an industry that can often be quite self-serving... especially at the higher levels. It always feels more than a bit wrong to actually scathingly review a Marshall film, but there's simply so much that doesn't work in New Year's Eve that it would be dishonest to do anything but trash the film. There are glimpses, brief glimpses, of what Marshall was trying to accomplish with the film. If you've ever sat around with someone you love, romantically or otherwise, waiting for the ball to drop or Dick Clark to count down or Barry Manilow to sing us in, then you've got an idea of what Marshall was trying to capture in New Year's Eve.

The problem, or at least one of the problems, is that Marshall is trying to tell too many stories and the vast majority of them end up coming off like cookie cutter stories featuring cookie cutter characters with cookie cutter conflicts ending up in cookie cutter resolutions.

That's a lot of cookies.

Try to follow.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays the mother of a 15-year-old (Abigail Breslin), who escapes their home determined to make it to Times Square. On the more "touching" side, Zac Efron gives a tour to a poor, lonely woman (Michelle Pfeiffer). Two couples (Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson, Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel) are competing to have the new year's first baby, while Robert DeNiro, with his trusty nurse (Halle Berry), may not make it until the ball drops. Hilary Swank, really!, is in charge of the whole Times Square routine, while Katherine Heigl is catering a big time gig for a rock star (Jon Bon Jovi) who ends up being an ex-boyfriend.

Confused yet?

Don't worry about it, because New Year's Eve isn't so much worried about following all the story lines as it is simply introducing cutesie scenarios and scenes designed to elicit laughs or heartfelt sighs of familiarity.

Unfortunately, there are very few laughs in the film and the "awww" moments are so brief that they are almost instantly forgotten.

At 117 minutes, New Year's Eve is far too long and one of the most badly cast films of 2011. It's not so much the fault of the cast, but of the casting director (and presumably Marshall), who appear to have put no thought whatsoever into the age and personality matches when casting the film. It's as if the magic of New Year's Eve is supposed to have swept us so up into a frenzy that we'll not recognize that Sarah Jessica Parker and Zac Efron aren't exactly convincing as a brother and sister duo except, perhaps, in the Duggar family.

It pains me to think, really to know, that even as this is being written many of you are eagerly anticipating this film and even planning a date night around it. While Jonah Hill's The Sitter isn't a brilliant film on any level, it at least manages to show off some comedic balls with its humor and even has a thread of humanity throughout. However, it's likely best to acknowledge that if you loved Valentine's Day then you will likely at least appreciate New Year's Eve, a film that lasts longer, has more celebrity appearances and everything you loved and I hated about Valentine's Day.

Bring on Arbor Day.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic