New Year's Eve celebrates love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts, in the intertwining stories told amidst the pulse and promise of New York City on the most dazzling night of the year. The film’s all-star cast includes Academy Award® winner Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Academy Award® nominee Abigail Breslin, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, two-time Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Academy Award® nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, two-time Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank and Sofia Vergara.
The "chick flick" has been a specialty of director Garry Marshall for decades. From Pretty Woman to Runaway Bride and the ensemble-driven Valentines Day, Marshall has been making romance films for the masses for years. After the success of Valentines Day, the studio greenlit Marshall's next venture, New Year's Eve, a sequel of sorts, only in concept, that centers on a batch of couples and singles who often cross paths as they near the grand moment in Times Square as 2011 becomes 2012.
Ensemble films are tricky. On paper, they look like can't-miss gems, whether it's a film like Valentines Day or a blockbuster failure like Mars Attacks. The film often becomes less about its subject matter and more about what actor we might see grace the screen next. This becomes one of the many problems inherent with New Year's Eve. The entire holiday, as well as any relationships that have become the centerpiece for the story, are greatly idealized. Most romantic comedies have that glossy, surreal presentation and New Year's Eve really isn't any different. Anyone who's experienced anything on the popular night will know the glamour of a film like this one isn't at all like what New Year's Eve feels like. At the same time, New Year's Eve works nicely as escapist entertainment. Its idealist view of the holiday is perfect for chick flick lovers to curl up with a box of tissues and a close friend or two to dream about second chances and starting over. One of the film's biggest themes is forgiveness, and since that's something many people often struggle with, it's nice to see it become such a big focus in a Hollywood film like this one.
The multiple intersecting stories shown in New Year's Eve are probably a few too many for its own good (There are almost as many gratuitous celebrity appearances included here as there are explosions in any one Michael Bay film). Because there are so many substories, there isn't much character development. What character development is shown here, too, is pretty surface and sometimes stereotypical. And romances blossom all too easily. For example, when a moping Ashton Kutcher suddenly finds himself stuck in an elevator with the pretty, young Lea Michele, it's not only predictable that they would end up falling for each other, but the way that it happens feels rather forced and unnatural. Another story involves a dying Robert DeNiro, who makes comments about having no family to see him through his final hours because of how horrible of a person he'd been throughout his life. Because the story can only allow so much time to develop each character, we're given very little to know about this character, and having shots of him lying, ragged, in a dark hospital room intercut with mostly otherwise bubbly scenes is grim and not as well executed as it possibly could have been (to make matters worse -- and spoiler alert here -- after we see him get to view the ball drop at midnight, it's highly implied that he somehow immediately died afterwards? It seems bizarre and much too contrived. And then, of course, we're shown a ward of newborns immediately following that in an attempt bring the film's mood right back up?). To add some holiday-specific drama into the fold, the New Year's ball that drops in Time Square in NYC has a malfunction and not only stops working, but won't fully light up. This is the big dramatic piece to the story, and when you really think about it, it just seems like a silly plot point. Granted, the audience knows a movie about New Year's Eve can't end without the ball dropping, so we all know it will get fixed in time, so that in itself relieves any potential, intended tension. To make things more ineffective, we're never ever given any idea of what time any of these events are happening in relation to the looming midnight festivities. This is one of those films where it may have made sense to include a time stamp periodically throughout the story to inform the audience of where we are in relation to the coming dawn of a new year. The fact that we never really know how little or how much time they have to get that NYE ball fixed, allieviates that needed suspense.
Despite New Year's Eve being a showcase for caricatures over characters, it's a fairly harmless rom-com. It's not super funny, but the talented cast make it bearable and at times enjoyable. While the execution may be poor, New Year's Eve is the cotton candy of cinema; it's sweet and fluffy, but there really isn't any substance. If that's what you're looking for, New Year's Eve delivers. There are far worse films out there, but in the end, this one is still one of the less memorable ones.
The content for New Year's Eve is mostly mild for a PG-13 film. There isn't a whole lot of language, and even some of the sexually-related dialog is done in a way where you can tell they were trying to hold back a bit. This also makes the presence of the solitary use of the "F" word all the more glaring. Jessica Biel's pregnant character shouts the infamous word out of anger (and is meant to be funny, even though it isn't really) while in labor. There are some uses of innuendo and such that overall keep the film from being a family one, but strangely enough, it otherwise feels like it was trying to be a family film...and just doesn't get there.
New Year's Eve is a "chick flick" through and through, but it's not one of those where people who don't normally like the genre will like this one. It's more or less an excuse to have lots and lots of characters played by lots and lots of recognizable faces, which keeps things moderately entertaining, but easily rips the viewer out of any sense of reality. The majority of moviegoers do not experience New Year's Eve in the way most of these characters do, and it's unlikely that even the inhabitants of New York City can really relate to the way the holiday is portrayed here. It's glamour for glamour's sake, so steer clear unless that's right up your alley.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/28/12)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
New Year's Eve is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack, single disc DVD, a Blu-Ray/Digital Copy combo pack and thru the usual digital download providers. The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack features both the Blu-Ray and DVD on ONE disc (also known as a "flipper disc"). One side is DVD and the other is Blu-Ray. In addition to a feature audio commentary from director Garry Marshall is the following bonus content...
The Magic of Times Square (6:12) - This is a short featurette that shows the cast and crew briefly reflecting on New Year's Eve and, specifically, their thoughts on the iconic imagery of NYE in Times Square.
New Year's Eve: Secrets of the Stars (5:23) is a short, cute little segment that has the cast and director Garry Marshall reflecting on their favorite New Year's Eve memories--places they've been, things they've done--as well as what some of their resolutions are.
Jon Bon Jovi & Lea Michele Rock New Year's Eve (6:14) is dedicated to the music in the film, particularly the songs Bon Jovi sings. Marshall talks here about pulling Bon Jovi out of acting retirement (I didn't realize he'd quit the acting biz) to play the role of a musician in the film. We see some great in-studio footage here and hear from Bon Jovi and Lea Michele about the tracks they worked on together.
Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Garry Marshall (16:59) - In this segment, Marshall introduces each deleted scene from the film, giving reasons why some of them were cut. The first has John Stamos appearing as a contest winner who got to throw the switch to light up the New Year's ball. It's pretty goofy, but it's an amusing additional scene here. The second is a horrifically cheesy scene that doesn't feel even remotely part of the film where Sofía Vergara and Russell Peters are talking after work and Peters' character lets it slip that he doesn't actually talk with an Indian accent (like he otherwise does in the film). It was wise to cut this one. Next is a nonsensical scene where Sam is trying to flag down a ride after he crashes his car. In it, an SUV stops, letting out a group of kids who just happen to have snowballs with them in the car, and they throw them at him and drive away. The fourth bit is a short scene where a random person gets a hold of the microphone from a TV reporter in Times Square and starts making announcements when the camera is on her. The next one is a very short scene where a nurse played by Alyssa Milano is shouting at the dying Robert DeNiro because she thinks he's hard of hearing. The sixth is a super short shot of Marshall's sister playing a party guest who makes a joke about having a dog named iPod (Sorry Garry, it really wasn't funny). Following is another split-second gag from the party, and then another that features Amare Stoudemire, from the NY Nicks, making a joke to a guest at the same party. Next is a gag where someone asks Seacrest about American Idol, which was cute but also not necessary. Following that is a short scene where Jensen is flipping pancakes in Laura's kitchen and has some additional dialog with his road manager. The final "deleted scene" isn't a deleted scene at all. Marshall went around New York City and asked about what people will be doing for the New Year or what their resolutions will be. Some sound very staged, while others seem rather natural. I'm not sure why he included them with the deleted scenes.
Deleted Scenes (7:48) - These are the above deleted scenes without Garry's introductions.
Gag Reel (11:04) - After a short intro from Marshall, we see a montage of flubs and mistakes while filming. Some were shown in the credits, but most of these were not. Any profanity used in the goof-ups were dubbed out with a silly horn sound, so that was an appreciated touch.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/28/12)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: While talking about a hospital giving a family with the first baby born in the new year $25k, a pregnant woman remarks "they could stick the camera in my hoo-ha and I wouldn't care!"; Rory comments to Sam that he will have to carry on random sensual relationships without him now that he's married; Some young teen girls talk about kissing and learning how to kiss correctly by watching a video online; A girl tells Kim to wear a specific dress because maybe she'll get some "action" tonight; Hailey, while arguing with her mom exclaims "I'm 15!" and pulls her shirt up to reveal her bra and says "This is NOT a training bra!" to which her mom exclaims, "and this is not 'Girls Gone Wild'!"; A tow truck driver comments that he and his girl are going to "crush a 12 pack and watch porn;" While Sam is telling a story, he mentions that something happened between him and a girl and someone listening asks "is it R-rated?" Later, he's still relaying the story and a man asks "did you boink her?" and he says no. He said a woman left him something and the man asks "a naked picture?" and winks jokingly at a woman also listening. He comments that he "can tap this" and that is phrase is repeated several times; A father pep-talks his forthcoming baby in his wife's womb not to deliver yet and a pregnant woman watching this says to her husband "Oh please don't yell at my vagina;" A male nurse says "let the best va-jay-jay win;" A man hints about Randy maybe having slept with a woman in an elevator, but Randy insists it didn't happen (and it definitely didn't); Sam comments that grandpa Jed is "very horny;" a miscellaneous woman at a party shows a lot of cleavage; One woman tells Sam she'd love to be the woman behind him, while another tells him she'd love to be the woman in front. He then laughs and cornily says "I'm a Sam-wich;" Ava shows a great deal of cleavage in her dress, as does Aimee; Laura makes a comment about how it may take a lot of make-up sex before she forgives him; In the outtakes, Elise emerges from the elevator and then Randy struts out after her shirtless and remarks "Baby, things were just heating up!"
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "F" word (1 is silenced during the credits), 1 "S" word," 1 incomplete "Holy Sh--," 1 incomplete "Shi-," 1 "cr*ppy" (written), 1 "d*mn," 1 "p*ssed off," 4 "a" words," 4 "h*ll," 2 "Oh my G-d," 1 "b*tch"
Alcohol/Drugs: There's talk about drinking and we see people with bottles of champagne and such, but it's not a major focus in the film.
Violence: A car knocks a woman off her feet into trash on the side of the street; We see Randy angrily ripping down tinsel and decorations around his apartment; Laura slaps Jensen in the face; A GPS misdirects a driver, causing him to hit a sign and the airbags to deploy in his face; Laura slaps Jensen in the face again.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.