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'New Year’s Eve' is a fun, fizzy, forgettable champagne cocktail

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Cynics need not apply to Garry Marshall's  new romantic comedy New Years Eve. In fact, they should stay far away, because the affair is as sappy and shamelessly manipulative as they come. It also has so much heart it could safely provide warmth to even the most massive Times Square crowd that awaits the ball drop on that cold winter’s night.

Add to that enough star wattage to light up a thousand Christmas trees, and like Valentine’s Day  before it, New Years Eve delivers easily digestible chick flick entertainment at its best.New Year's Eve photo: New Line Cinema

The film introduces at least a dozen stories, all of which are interconnected throughout the 90 minute running time. The primary focus is on Claire (Hilary Swank), who has just been promoted to a new committee that organizes the infamous Times Square ball drop every year.

Everything is well and great until the ball literally malfunctions while rising up early in the evening, sending everyone into a state of chaos.

Meanwhile, not too far away in a generic office building, a socially awkward woman named Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) quits her job on the spot after her boss gives her an underwhelming end of year raise. “I was going to book a cruise with this,” she insists. “Well, that may get you to Staten Island,” he sarcastically remarks.  

While packing up her desk she encounters courier worker Paul (Zak Efron), and she hires him for the day, insisting he help her check off all the items on her New Years bucket list. If he succeeds, she will give him tickets to the most coveted party in the whole city.

That famous party will be catered by Laura (Katherine Heigl), who is overly anxious because her old flame and worldwide rock star Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) will be attending and performing. His backup singer Elise (Lea Michele) however, may not make it because she’s trapped in an elevator with Randy (Ashton Kutcher), an anti-New Years comic book artist who is hardly willing to listen to her complaints.

Elsewhere, several other stories are introduced, only to be connected later. Two couples compete with each other to give birth at exactly midnight in a famous New York hospital, as the winner will be awarded $25,000. In the same hospital, a dying man (Robert De Niro) pleads with his nurse (Halle Berry) to be released from bedside so that he can watch the ball drop on the roof, as his cancer will likely take his life by then end of the night. Finally, a mother (Sarah Jessica Parker) frantically searches the New York streets for her young daughter, who has escaped their apartment in pursuit of a boy she plans to kiss at midnight in Times Square.

 

There are plenty of satisfying surprises and twists that occur as New Year’s Eve plays out, but they won’t be revealed here. Veteran romantic comedy director Marshall (Pretty Woman) seamlessly juggles and blends the gaggle of stories present in Katherine Fugate’s (Valentine’s Day) script. The script isn’t as funny as it should be (not to mention there’s plenty of broad sit-com humor), but Marshall’s pleasant, romantic tone and the energy of the performances really carry it through.

As I looked to the left and right of me at the screening for New Year’s Eve, I saw two females visibly wiping away tears at various moments in the movie. There was also loud applause as the film ended. That means although most critics may loathe this kind of syrupy, cheesy affair, Marshall has more than delivered a heartfelt, feel good film to his target audience.

Break out the champagne!

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

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New Year's Eve photos: New Line Cinema