The Americans tend to copy most things but they don’t necessarily make them any better.
New Year’s Eve is a take on Richard Curtis’s 2003 Love Actually. It’s a film about romance, parenthood, death, friendship, loneliness, regret and freedom. Not quite as sweetly saccharine as the Curtis film, it nevertheless overloads on sentimentality and mawkishness whilst an all-star cast seeks to turn New York City into the most romantic, festive and loving place on earth.
Like Love Actually, New Year’s Eve is built on multiple interlocking vignettes outlining the adventures of an array of characters in the hours leading up to the countdown to December 31 in Times Square. So there is Hilary Swank who is tasked with delivering the annual tradition of dropping the ball at the stroke of midnight.
Robert De Niro is dying and anxious to see the ball drop one more time and Ashton Kutcher is the young curmudgeon trapped in a lift with a backing vocalist played by Michelle Pfeiffer. And there are more, many more.
The complexities of such a multi-story film would defeat most directors. Here, thankfully, the reins are held by Garry (Pretty Woman) Marshall, a past master at this kind of thing. But even he can’t prevent some stories from fading in comparison to others.
Thus it is Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron, as an odd couple thrust together, who emerge as winners along with Hilary Swank as the corporate lass determined not to let the Big Apple down.
There is probably way too much going on for anyone to keep tags on all the various stories. The ensemble cast is too broad and too unwieldy, with too many stars having too little to do. That said one can see the attraction of shooting a vignette and rubbing shoulders with an icon like De Niro, here playing another of his father figures.
There is an indulgence to New Year’s Eve that misses the cosiness and quirkiness of Love Actually. The comedy is both slight and heavy-handed, the search for romance clichéd. Is it a waste of such a high-power cast? Possibly. No-one gets sufficient screen time, giving the impression that this is a much slimmer tale than it was meant to be.