DIRECTED BY GARRY MARSHALL
Like her namesake, Caril Ann—who was a willing accomplice in the infamous late-’50s Starkweather murders—screenwriter Katherine Fugate is a serial offender. But while, at least, the misdeeds of Starkweather’s Fugate would eventually inspire a New Hollywood classic in Terrence Malick’s Badlands, the product of the latter Fugate’s partnership with director Gary Marshall is two criminally vapid, holiday-themed, mega-ensemble rom-coms.
The first, 2010’s Valentine’s Day, was a surprise box office success despite general critical condemnation, hence the duo’s latest calculatedly sentimental, celeb-saturated offering, New Year’s Eve. A rote rehash of its lucrative predecessor, the December 31st–set follow-up tritely surveys the interpersonal tribulations of roughly two-dozen New Yorkers across a series of loosely linked, limply conceived vignettes.
Among those turning up to collect paycheques on this occasion are Hilary Swank, as a Times Square official whose ball won’t drop; Katherine Heigl and Jon Bon Jovi as an off-again, on-in-time-for-a-happy-ending chef/rockstar couple; Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers as expectant parents whose primary concern is the $25,000 prize awarded to the first newborn of the new year; a terminally ill Robert De Niro and Halle Berry as his nurse; and Russell Peters and Sofia Vergara as ethnic stereotypes.
When the cast aren’t delivering Fugate’s painfully leaden punchlines, they’re uttering equally shameless schmaltz about second chances and renewed hope. De Niro’s character is the exception—he simply wants to see Times Square one last time before he dies. When he inevitably gets his wish, thanks to the iconic links between De Niro, Times Square, and Taxi Driver, New Year’s Eve achieves its first and only pangs of poignancy. These aren’t for the passing of De Niro’s clichéd cancer patient, of course, but for the apparent demise of the actor’s inclination to appear in good films.