I feel like I could just repeat my thoughts on 2009’s Valentine’s Day and just add a little note at the end of the review saying that New Year’s Eve isn’t quite as good as its predecessor. That wouldn’t be entirely fair; they’re not exactly the same film, after all, although it’s incredibly difficult to not notice the many similarities common between them. The most obvious of which is that there are too many characters and stories to mention without confusing anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.
As only the most clever among you might guess, the film takes place on New Year’s Eve, 2011, in the city known for the famous ball drop, New York City. All of the characters live here, and almost all of them have major plans for the holiday. Some want to win a contest by having the first birth of the year; another just wants to live to see the next year; some are catering the big party; some are the ones attending the party being catered; there’s a singer wanting to rekindle a relationship he walked out of, and another singer wishing to get her chance to tour with the first one.
That’s not even beginning to describe how many different things are going on in this film. That might be about half of them, although I suspect you could list almost a dozen more. Most of the stories involve two main characters, sometimes with some notable supporting roles, and they often intertwine with each other. It’s quite surprising the number of high-profile actors they got to participate in this movie, although considering it would likely only require a week or so of participation to receive a strong paycheck, I can see the appeal from the stars’ perspective.
If you’re already familiar with Valentine’s Day, this is more of the same. If you didn’t watch that film — and while I liked it, I wouldn’t blame you for not giving it a chance — you might suspect that so many characters and storylines would get confusing. It doesn’t. You adjust rather quickly, mostly because you know most of the actors, and the constant cutting back and forth is rarely bothersome.
However, what Valentine’s Day did better, in terms of plot structure, was always ending on a bit of a cliffhanger. When we’d cut to a different story, you’d anticipate seeing what happened in the previous one because it left you hanging. It was intriguing to watch because of this. New Year’s Eve doesn’t even attempt this. It arbitrarily moves from one story to the next, and there was never any reason beyond “Well, we’ve lingered here for too long.”
Because of this, there’s no reason for all of the stories to be told at the same time. They would each work just as well told separately and all together. The only thing you’d miss out on would be the crossovers, I suppose, but those could still happen and be rewarding for second viewings. I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to see New Year’s Eve again anyway, as it’s not really any good, but if you had that inkling to rewatch it, you could notice something new. “Hey, that guy shows up later,” for example, would be a phrase you might utter a couple of times.
The main reason you won’t want to see New Year’s Eve again is because it’s not really funny, or all that enjoyable. Sure, it’s all overly sentimental — and some people will like that kind of thing, especially as a date movie on the titular holiday — but there are essentially no laughs, and the sweetness all but rubs off once you see just how contrived it has to be in order to all work out. There are at least two stories that shouldn’t have had a happy ending, but wind up having one anyway because it’s that kind of movie.
There’s one fakeout in the middle of the movie that I was happy about, but that’s about the only time I smiled during New Year’s Eve. It involves a man (Josh Duhamel) wanting to meet a woman he only meant once before, exactly 365 days ago. He didn’t even get a name. When another character, a woman, tells someone else that she should go “see him,” we know exactly what she means, right? Not necessarily. It would have been too easy, sure, but I was surprised that there was at least one “twist.”
The performances are all fine for what this is: sentimental fluff. The only actually “good” acting in the film comes from Robert De Niro playing a character lying on his deathbed. But even De Niro phones in some scenes. Some of the names in here are quite prominent, but not many are really good in this; they’re all just adequate, here for a paycheck, and nothing more. Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Aigail Breslin, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigel, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Sofi Vergara are all in this film.
New Year’s Eve will probably please anyone looking for an easygoing, unchallenging date movie. One that, when it’s finished, something more interesting can take place. Anything would fit that bill. If you want anything other than an overly sentimental piece of fluff made to please people and give actors a paycheck for very little work, you’ll want to look elsewhere. And if you want a better version of essentially the same movie, Valentine’s Day exists. At least it’s funny.