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The stars come out on “New Year’s Eve”

By Lars Trodson | Dec 31, 2013

Very rarely has there ever been so many “stars” in one movie to so little effect. The movie in question is the cleverly titled “New Year’s Eve,” which is available at the Island Free Library. It is a companion piece, of sorts, to another star-studded extravaganza called “Valentine’s Day.” Both of these films were written by Katherine Fugate who, I learned, is the niece of the actress who once played the Genie on “I Dream of Jeannie.” The director of the two films is Garry Marshall, who gave us “Happy Days.”

This is a big, glossy romantic comedy that is not terribly romantic, at least not in any realistic way, nor is it very funny. But if you like this sort of thing it may get the job done.

The granddaddy of this kind of movie is undoubtedly “Love Actually,” which took a lot of good actors, each with their own storyline but with some connection that was revealed in the end. “New Year’s Eve” attempts the same thing, only to much lesser effect. The tension in the movie surrounds whether the big ball that drops at midnight will be repaired in time for the celebration. I was on the edge of my seat.

In the opening two minutes alone there is enough product placement to have covered the significant salaries of all the stars in the movie. This wasn’t done especially well. Hilary Swank has a conversation in front of a big yellow McDonald’s arch for no other reason than to make sure we see the logo.

Here we go with the plots: Hilary Swank is head of something called the Times Square Alliance, which is in charge of the big New Year’s party in Times Square. As Swank is dealing with the broken ball, Katherine Heigl is a caterer in charge of the food that will be served at the party where the big rock star Jon Bon Jovi is playing. Bon Jovi and Heigle are former lovers. He ran out on her. She slaps him. Sofia Vergara is always in these scenes to offer supposedly funny asides. Oh boy.

There’s more. Robert DeNiro, who obviously needed some money to buy a new hotel, is in bed dying of cancer and he wants to live until midnight to see the “ball drop one more time.” Halle Berry is his kindly nurse. Zac Efron is a courier who flirts with Michelle Pfieffer (nice to see back in the movies after a long hiatus.) Ashton Kutcher, who obviously needed some money to buy another internet company, is a graphic novelist who hates New Year’s Eve. He is lucky enough to get stuck in an elevator with Lea Michelle. He draws a picture of her and she sings him a song. (She’s a backup singer for Jon Bon Jovi.) Sarah Jessica Parker is trying to keep her daughter Abigail Breslin from going to a party in Times Square because the daughter is only 15! (Parker has the only genuinely funny line in the whole picture.)

The humor in these movies is almost always based on some sort of barely repressed anger. People tear down decorations, throw fruit and eggs at a poster, are rude to strangers or to their children, and on and on. It’s the kind of movie where having a baby is reduced to a contest to see who can win a cash prize for having the first child of the new year.

This is all, I imagine, to let us see the transformed, softer side of these characters once they find true love on New Year’s Eve.

Because that’s what I always think of on New Year’s Eve, as the one time of year when it’s possible to find yourself a soul mate, in a sea of people, in Times Square, waiting for the countdown from Ryan Seacrest. Or not.

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