Big stars just go through the motions in ‘New Year’s Eve’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, December 7, 2011 4:34pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Not since Valentine’s Day — er, I mean, “Valentine’s Day” — have we seen quite the assembled talent on display in “New Year’s Eve,” another all-star ensemble comedy from director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate.

That’s right, all the romance of New Year’s Eve in New York City is steadily drained out in the course of this movie, despite the large cast on hand. The crowd includes Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Biel, Robert De Niro and Jon Bon Jovi, the latter playing someone who seems a lot like Jon Bon Jovi.

I will give the picture credit for coming up with one of the all-time movie jobs: Hilary Swank plays the person in charge of making sure the Times Square ball comes down at midnight. (Of course, there’s a snafu, and some labored suspense about the outcome.)

The only actor to catch a wisp of a character is Michelle Pfeiffer (who worked with Marshall on “Frankie and Johnny”), now finally looking her age but conveying more character than the other performers on display. Her trembling neurotic is determined to fulfill a wish list by the end of the day, and a brash bicycle messenger (Zac Efron) is there to egg her on.

Scattered in these separate storylines, which occasionally overlap, are a collection of tepid romantic truisms and “funny ethnics.” Garry Marshall’s career goes back to the era of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and he’s got a sense of humor that is by turns creaky and pleasantly old-fashioned.

The main problem here is that everybody seems to be going through the paces, as though confident that the charm of all those big movie stars would automatically carry the day. And so the cornball situations play out without too many surprises: Kutcher and “Glee” star Lea Michele trapped in an elevator, two couples vying to have the first baby of the new year, a 15-year-old (Abigail Breslin) looking forward to her first kiss at midnight.

And Ryan Seacrest and Michael Bloomberg play themselves. (Now there’s a sentence to chill your bones.)

Also, I have to note that this film is an example of what the movie-watching experience is coming to, and not in a good way. In other words, to call “New Year’s Eve” a “film” is to use an outmoded term; shot digitally, it is also projected digitally in many theaters (as it was when I saw it at a preview). The picture looked flat, with exaggerated colors, and at least half a dozen actors appeared to be suffering from jaundice, so yellow were their cheeks.

Digital projection is replacing film projection at a very rapid rate, and while some digital stuff looks terrific, we’re also going to get things like this once in a while. Unless somebody complains about it.

“New Year’s Eve” (1½ stars)

A gallery of big-name actors scurry through New York City on New Year’s Eve, trying to hit Times Square at midnight, a mostly creaky but occasionally old-fashioned experience. The cast includes Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert De Niro, although the only actor to summon up some kind of character is Michelle Pfeiffer.

Rated: PG-13 for subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Edmonds, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade, Oak Harbor.

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