Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Penny Marshall, Cherry Jones, Hilary Swank, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Hector Elizondo, Ryan Seacrest, Michael Bloomberg, Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Mary Marguerite Keane
Written by: Katherine Fugate
Directed by: Garry Marshall
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language including some sexual references
Running Time: 118
Date: 12/05/2011

New Year's Eve (2011)

1 Star (out of 4)

New Year's Peeve

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The success of last year's Valentine's Day prompted this follow-up, related only by its format and its holiday setting. I did not see the previous film, but this one is a big dumb mess, populated by many talented stars, and some not so talented. It's a wonder how some of these people came on board, given the forced, bland nature of the screenplay (it's as if they deliberately hired someone with no knowledge of screenwriting). While you're watching this two-hour slog, you start to ponder what the stars' paychecks looked like in relation to the relatively brief shooting schedule. Robert De Niro, for example, probably finished his scenes in two days, tops, and likely earned more than most folks earn in a year. Even the most gifted actor in the world can endure a little pain to put bread on the table.

It seems fairly clear that director Garry Marshall landed the job to make this movie as an investment that would no doubt pay off. But there's something else about this movie, which is big and dumb, but also soft and lumpy and cuddly. It has a reassuring certainty to it. It definitely appeals to a wide audience, and therefore hits on something very basic, some primal level of comfort. I was thinking of that brilliant montage in Singin'in the Rain, where, as Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor take their act to bigger and more respectable houses, their dancing slows down and becomes more refined, less reckless and raucous.

New Year's Eve is a common, "reckless, raucous" entertainment for bawdy, ground-level music halls. Where else could Sof´┐Ża Vergara talk about her cleavage and bring spicy enchiladas to John Bon Jovi? Where else could Robert De Niro play a dying cancer patient, or Zac Efron kiss Michelle Pfieffer? This is bottom-line stuff, and while it's repellent to our evolved selves, it does do something to the selves that we once were, or wish we could be. It's firm in its knowledge that true love does exist, for everyone, and all we have to do is be open to it. It's equally firm that a new year brings all kinds of hope for change. Our experience and education may argue with us, but as idiotic as this movie is, it does leave you with a gooey feeling. And, at least before the lights come on and you have to face your friends, it's up to you to decide whether it's good or bad goo.

Note: whatever forces conspired to make Valentine's Day a hit were not present this time. It earned about half of its predecessor's box office, and went on to earn five Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture.

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