“New Year’s Eve,” like last year’s “Valentine’s Day,” is the movie equivalent of one of those name-brand packet cocoas with the little freeze-dried marshmallows in it. Both movies feature several sugary-sweet, star-packed stories lightly woven together, focusing on relationships and all set in a single day. It won’t rock your world, but by the end of the movie there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have chuckled a few times, sniffled once or twice, and smiled more than your inner cynic is at all comfortable with.
Of course, there will also be moments when you’re a little bored. Focusing on the theme of hope rather than love, “New Year’s Eve” tries to have a little something of absolutely everything. There’s young love, a few different parent-child relationships, mysterious romance, a potential career crisis, angst, extremely broad slapstick-style comedy, and relatively big-named singers for both older and younger audiences (Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele from “Glee,” respectively).
It’s like a movie buffet, and there will undoubtedly be two or three of the stories that you end up rooting for and two or three that you just can’t make yourself care about. Personally, I was surprised by how much I liked Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele’s elevator interlude, and I was fascinated by Michelle Pfeiffer’s transformation into a sad, beaten-down, unattractive woman who learned to experience the world.
On the flip side, Bon Jovi should definitely stick to his day job, and the comedy in the pregnancy story line was a little too broad for me. Still, everyone’s tastes are different.
You do, however, have to have a sweet tooth. Director Gary Marshall, best known for “Pretty Woman,” has drizzled both “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” with gentler versions of that movie’s fairy tale quality. Love, hope and community spirit generally win out over all, though Halle Berry’s character has a nice moment at the end that adds a great deal of perspective.
And if the sugar ever starts to be a little too much, you can take a moment to enjoy either one of the special features Marshall clearly plans on packaging with every edition of what will clearly become his “Holiday Movie Title Series” (“Memorial Day” will be a tearjerker, while “Arbor Day” will clearly be a laugh riot).
The first of these is the vicarious city visit. “Valentine’s Day” also served as a love letter to Los Angeles, while “New Year’s Eve” crosses the country to be in Times Square for the big ball drop. There are several long, lingering shots of various New York corners, with the most attention and love being paid to the square itself (which is just as candy-colored and jammed with people as it looks like it is on the movie).
The second is the “Spot-the-star” game, which can get immense and detailed enough that you might want to keep a scorecard. It appears that every actor Marshall has ever met pops up for at least a few random lines of dialogue, though the recognizable names are given at least an uninterrupted screenshot so you don’t have to strain your eyes hunting for them. I’ll spoil the Hector Elizondo appearance – apparently, both he and Kutcher come standard in these – but you get extra points for picking up the famous movie-related name pun attached to another big name pop-up.
And if that’s too much work, just sit back and enjoy that hot chocolate. With everything else going on around the holidays, sometimes all we need is a few hours to relax.