Whipping Up a Storm
I'm speculating that one of the reasons why New Year's Eve got pushed up so early in the month is because come that time of the season everyone will be out there merry making rather than to head to the cinemas and probably revel in whatever festivities the welcoming of the new year will bring, instead of watching something that failed to capture the mood and spirit of leaving behind the old and being hopeful for what the new year would hold. Yes, for all its celebratory mood seen in the trailer, the actual product is nothing more than a really boring affair culminating in the New York Times Square ball drop at the stroke of midnight.
Garry Marshall continues from his festival theme film Valentine's Day with yet another ensemble that rounds up some of the hottest folks in Hollywood, playing caricatures in 8 short stories that you know will link up one way or another, either through characters or through events. There's Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) the mousy secretary of a music executive (John Lithgow) who quit her job to fulfill her New Year's resolution with the help of a courier boy (Zac Efron). Then we have Robert De Niro as a patient on his death bed persuading his doctor (Cary Elwes) and his nurse (Halle Berry) to let him see the countdown from the rooftop of the hospital. Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers play a couple who are expecting their child, and are in competition with another couple played by Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger to produce the first New Year's baby to walk away with 25 thousand, engaging the help of Carla Gugino's spiritual doctor.
Leaving the hospital and into the hottest party in town, there's food caterer Laura (Katherine Heigl) who has to contend with rock star Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) who is trying his utmost to win her back after walking out on her a year ago, with tired comedy contributed by her chefs played by Sofia Vergara and Russell Peters. Jensen's backup singer Elise (Lea Michele) finds herself stuck in a lift with the indifferent Randy (Ashton Kutcher) while en route to the performance. Sarah Jessica Parker and Abigail Breslin play a protective mother and daughter pair where the latter is trying to seek permission to spend the night out with her friends. Hillary Swank plays the executive of the ball drop event which has hit a snag, with Ludacris as her police confidante, and rounding it all up is Josh Duhamel as a music mogul apprehensive whether he'll meet the woman of his dreams once more.
And throw in a couple more big names from Ryan Seacrest to cameos like Matthew Broderick and even Michael Bloomberg himself against the backdrop of Times Square, and the stage's all set for one heck of a party, not. Most of the stories here, written by Katherine Fugate, seemed more like an exercise to pack as many characters as possible without digging deeper in to the emotions on why such a day on the calendar is such a big deal. While Valentine's Day may have it easier since any romantic tale will fit the bill, how do you do one for New Year's, and to do so successfully, and convincingly? If not for the bevy of stars, this film would have fallen flat on its face because there's nothing absolutely compelling in the stories that you'd root for anyone to succeed in fulfilling their objectives before the new year kicks in.
It's dull and uninspiring, with no real emotion on display despite the wealth of talent at its disposal. The one I really wanted to laugh out loud at, is that of the Josh Duhamel arc involving a guy pining for a woman whom he had described a magical meeting that got etched permanently in his mind. This served as the hook to engage until the end, but what an anti-climatic let down when the identity got revealed, because throughout the film every other female character was of a lot more positive in attitude that the final chosen one, and worse, seemed to be forced into it because her character arc was simply the most atrocious of the lot. I never understood her appeal, and when she appeared in the end to close the loop, I'd swear I'd rather shoot myself if that was something that can happen in real life.
New Year's Eve was a tad too long in dragging out its scenes so that each arc has about an equal amount of time without one upstaging another, but all in all this film has one purpose and one purpose only - to serve as product placement, in almost every shot you'd see a brand name sticking out. You'd get a lot more cheer in actually getting outside and making merry with strangers, than to be stuck in a cinema hall watching this depressingly bad film. Pick something else instead if you crave for ensemble films.