New Year’s Eve

Somewhere, Reese Witherspoon and Juliet Binoche are smiling. Laughing even, probably. They had a chance to be in Garry Marshall’s latest ‘too many cooks’ schmaltz-fest New Year’s Eve, and they turned him down.

Apparently, though, they were the only ones.

Everyone else (Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofía Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, John Lithgow, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Joey McIntyre, Larry Miller, Yeardley Smith, Penny Marshall, Hilary Swank, Ludacris, Hector Elizondo, Ryan Seacrest, and -whew!- Matthew Broderick) is here.

And if your head is spinning from just reading that list, imagine trying to keep track of the actors in their all-too-brief scenes onscreen; pinball machines are more sluggish.

But that’s not even the worst problem with New Year’s Eve. Frankly, it’s that so little of it makes any sense. Case(s) in point:

De Niro is a terminal cancer patient whose dying wish is to see the ball drop. Really? An annual event that most New York residents shun like the plague? That’s your dying wish? (And by the time we finally learn the half-assed reason why it’s his wish, we just don’t care anymore.)

Kutcher and Michele are trapped in an elevator for eight hours. With nothing but a cup of cold coffee. Amazingly, though, there’s no talk of peeing. Huh.

Jon Bon Jovi (as a rock star, natch) miraculously makes it from Brooklyn to Times Square and back again in a car, in under an hour. Thirty minutes before the ball drops. With a musical performance tossed in, just to make it interesting. Wonder Twin powers, activate!

Sarah Jessica Parker finds runaway daughter Abigail Breslin (who, in turn, finds her friends) with little or no effort. In Times Square. At the stroke of midnight. Again, on New Year’s Eve.

Hillary Swank’s oratory skills are so powerful she can silence the four-block radius around Times Square to a level quieter than a Tibetan monastery.

And finally– that Zac Efron turns in one of the movie’s better performances (with a cast that includes Oscar winners/nominees De Niro, Pfeiffer, Breslin, Lithgow, Swank, and Berry).

New Year’s Eve has more saccharin sweetness than a case of Pixy Stix and more story lines than the entire 40-year run of All My Children, but there are still plenty of people who will get a bit of a lump in their throat as three dozen characters all find happy endings within five minutes of each other. Credit screenwriter Katherine Fugate (the pen behind last year’s equally-ridiculous Valentine’s Day) who, incredibly, is able to hit on every rom-com cliche you can think of… and then some.

Had any one of the characters been given their own movie (well… with the exception of the insufferable Katherine Heigl) we’d be on to something, but as it stands, New Year’s Eve is a bloated, haphazard, non-sensical mess, that is redeemed only a little by the blooper reel during the closing credits.

2/5 stars