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New Year's Eve: A Crowded Affair

New Year's Eve
U/A; Romantic Comedy
Dir: Garry Marshall
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Hillary Swank, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ludacris, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele, Sofia Vergara, Zac Efron, Russell Peters
Rating: * * (out of 5)



If Hollywood were to make a Bollywood-style multi-starrer, New Year's Eve would be it. With a cast that's chock-a-block with Oscar winners, TV stars, teen heartthrobs and cameos, this is as shamelessly commercial as Hollywood can get. It's as though the makers decided on a shooting schedule and then simply sent mass invites urging actors in Los Angeles to drop by the sets of New Year's Eve if they had nothing better to do.

This sounds like a fun idea on paper, but multi-starrers can also be made with subtlety and style. Consider the sappy but enjoyable Love, Actually, for example. Here, veteran director Garry Marshall, takes with a potentially interesting premise and ruins it by cramming too much into too little. A pastiche of parallel stories that involve a gamut of characters in New York City (many of them centered around and related to Time Square's iconic New Year celebrations), New Year's Eve scrambles to tie together wafer-thin plot threads, only a few of which are interesting and almost all of which are predictable.

Marshall, who is 77 years old and has built an entire career around making feel-good rom-coms -- from classics like Pretty Woman to consumerist vehicles such as this year's Valentines Day -- milks Katherine Fugate's manipulative script for all it's worth. We have actors playing tiresomely familiar roles such as Vergara playing a sous chef named Ava, clearly modelled on her Modern Family character. A worse example is comedian Peters playing her colleague Sunil, speaking in a faux Indian accent (the one he lampoons in his stand-up material) and taking special care to pronounce the name of his boss, Laura (Heigl), in a manner that, well, let's just say Indian audiences will find particularly hilarious.

There is some fun, admittedly, in watching top-notch actors like De Niro, Swank, Berry and Pfeiffer have fun with their roles, but the flippant nature of the movie tends to get annoying. Some mildly interesting tracks -- such as the one involving delivery boy Paul (Efron) and neurotic older woman Ingrid (Pfeiffer), or the one between hipster comic-book artist Randy (Kutcher) and back-up singer (Michele) -- get lost in this scramble, crammed as this movie is with characters and sub-plots. For every well written line and effective moment, there are a dozen cringe-worthy ones. Most of these involve Laura, single mother Kim (Jessica Parker) and young record company heir Sam (Duhamel). And, of course, every moment Bon Jovi -- playing rock star Jensen -- is on screen, unintentionally parodying himself. Can't really blame him, considering that's exactly what the movie is -- a caricature of itself.

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