Portmanteau films are anthologies of short stories tied together with one central theme. In the 1940s and 50s these anthology films would be a useful way for a studio to show off all the stars they had at there disposal. The actual quality of the plot was disregarded in favour of throwing as many A-list stars into one feature film. In recent years there have been a few of these style films ranging from the good (Love, Actually) to the downright dull (Valentine's Day). The director and producer of the latter, Gary Marshall, is responsible for creating New Year's Eve, the latest of the portmanteau films.
It's impossible to summarise everything that happens in New Year's Eve, but I'll go through and give a few comments on the various relationships (and I use that term loosely) within the film. Claire (Hilary Swank) is trying to organise the ball-drop at Times Square, New York.
This forms the centrepiece and Swank is more than proficient at doing dramatic with a tinge of desperate comedy, but blows it with the sickening speech about halfway through. Ingrid (Michelle Pfieffer), a secretary at a record label quits her job and hires courier Paul (Zac Efron) to help her complete her last years' resolutions. This forms the most entertaining relationship as Efron has bundles of natural charisma and Pfieffer is the standout performer as the beaten down secretary. Meanwhile Sam (Josh Duhamel) is trying to get back tot he city to make it to a big party. Duhamel was convincing and is a likable screen presences, he was actually watchable.
Paul's room-mate Randy (Ashton Kutcher), a man who hates New Year's Eve, gets stuck in a lift with backup singer Elise (Lea Michelle). Annoying tacked on story that could and should've been cut as neither are strong enough to convey any real emotions in such a short amount of time. Elise is the backup singer for Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), who is the former lover of party chef Laura (Katherine Heigl). Hiegl has steadily made worse films since the excellent Knocked Up, and despite giving her best shot in this is just wasted and can add another abomination to her resume. Bon Jovi should never act. Ever.
Stan Harris (Robert De Niro) is refusing treatment for a terminal disease and is trying to convince nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) and Doctor (Cary Elwes) to let him watch the ball drop from the roof before he dies. The emotional core of the film is ably handled by Oscar winners Berry and De Niro, but by the time their stories get going most of the goodwill toward the film has disappeared. Griffin (Seth Myers) and Tess (Jessica Biel) are expecting a baby and get into a competition with another couple to try and be the first to give birth in the new year and win a cash prize. Glimpses of comedy here, but not nearly enough to lift the drudge of the rest of the film.
And finally, Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) is having trouble with her teenage daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) who is experiencing adulthood for the first time. Despite my less than positive thoughts about SJP in previous films, I thought that with her being relegated to a side-role, she might be bareable. In small doses she is actually vaguely watchable. It helps that Breslin can more than hold up her end of their mother-daughter relationship. And then, crushingly at the end comes the Sex and the City reference that nearly makes me vomit into the hair of the girl sitting in front of me at the cinema.
This may seem like an old style film review and perhaps not something that I'm accustomed to writing, but frankly if Hollywood are going to make me sit through a film that is just an advert for the pretty people they could afford to get in one place, then why should I dissect it in any great detail. New Year's Eve needs to cut 75% of the actors and expand the roles of those that actually put some effort into their performances. In fact I would've happily watched 90 minutes of the Pfeiffer/Efron and been perfectly happy. It avoids the lowest marks based on their performances along with Duhamel. But I do hope everyone in this takes the money they were paid and goes out and makes an independent film to cleanse themselves of this atrocity against celluloid.
Rating: * 1/2