We can all agree that Dec. 31 exists solely as an excuse for boozing it up and artificially extending the Christmas holiday, right?
Apparently, no one told Hilary Swank’s character in the flaccid new ensemble comedy “New Year’s Eve” — she delivers a speech about how important and life-changing the closing of the year can be, and even though her monologue was so cliché-ridden that I found myself tuning out midway through, other characters spent the rest of the movie telling her how deep it was.
But then, all the other characters in this movie are morons.
Today’s pop culture landscape hasn’t exactly been crying out for a revival of “Love, American Style,” the corny Nixon-era anthology sitcom featuring short and sappy vignettes about the wackiness of romance. But Garry Marshall, once a contributor to that dopey TV show, seems hell-bent on reviving its brainless brand of hearts and flowers with this idiotic time-waster that’s determined to put the same stink on New Year's Eve that Marshall’s recent “Valentine’s Day” inflicted on Feb. 14.
Put together, these movies represent the most expensive and arguably worst-written “Love Boat” sweeps month ever created.
The annual Times Square ball-drop becomes a backdrop for eight or so inane little tales about insipid New Yorkers searching for love and connections on the last page of the calendar. All-star New Year’s Eves haven’t been this disastrous since the S.S. Poseidon capsized, and by the end of “New Year’s Eve,” you’ll be wishing for some colossal natural disaster to befall these clods.
None of the marquee names come off particularly well here, so it’s more a matter of figuring out who embarrasses themselves the most. My vote goes to Michelle Pfeiffer, playing an emotionally-strangled secretary who quits her job and attempts to accomplish all of her new year’s resolutions in one day, with the help of a bike courier played by Zac Efron.
As unconvincing as Efron is as a rakish bro-about-town, Pfeiffer’s portrayal of a bottled-up woman of a certain age borders on the offensive. Her twitchy, frumpy idea of what middle-aged unfulfillment looks like feels a lazy and cynical performance from an actress who should know better.
Also doing herself no favors is Sofia Vergara, a delightful member of the “Modern Family” ensemble on the small screen, but whose work here follows her dispiriting film appearances in “The Smurfs” and “Happy Feet Two.” Vergara’s ¡Ay! routine transcends stereotypes in her TV work, but without a really talented writing staff feeding her lines, she comes off like a charmless Charo.
There’s no surprise in seeing the likes of Josh Duhamel and Jessica Biel (both holdovers from “Valentine’s Day”) — much less Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Ashton Kutcher, and Lea Michele — being less than picky about their movie roles, but what the heck are Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cherry Jones, Sarah Paulson and Abigail Breslin doing phoning it in for this hack-stravaganza?
By the time the clock rings midnight in “New Year’s Day,” you’ll find yourself grateful for the likes of Larry Miller and Yeardley Smith in minor roles, playing the closest thing this movie has to recognizable human beings.
And if you enjoyed the fact that recent films like “Tower Heist” and “In Time” seemed perfectly timed to match the Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist, “New Year’s Eve” gets that sort of thing all wrong, opening with someone saying “We want to see a show of strength from the NYPD,” (they probably said that before the sweep of Zuccotti Park) and later featuring a third-act cameo from the newly-hissable Mayor Bloomberg.
“New Year’s Day” has all the edge of Guy Lombardo and the laughs of a hangover. Do yourself a favor and RSVP “No” to this party.