Have you ever ordered soup at a restaurant and noticed a fly floating in it, and when the waiter came over you said, "There's a fly in my soup, could you please find other gross insects to add to it so I can stare at it in mild disgust for two hours and then give you $12 for the experience?" That's what sitting through Garry Marshall's latest movie is like, except the insects are cliches and the soup is the mess that is New Year's Eve.
The last 13 years of his directing career might be interpreted as a social experiment in seeing just how long it would take to push moviegoers over the edge. Dear God, The Other Sister, Raising Helen, Princess Diaries 2, and Valentine's Day are all excellent reasons to forget how fantastic Pretty Woman and Beaches are. Back in 2010 I was willing to smile and nod with his last attempt to destroy a holiday, Valentine's Day, even allowing it to play on the TV when I was using my food processor in the kitchen. But he's really pushing me now. New Year's Eve as about as much joy and warmth as being held at gunpoint and having your noisemaker jammed in your eye.
In the spirit of intertwining storylines as much as possible, the main focus is on a big party being held at a record company. Josh Duhamel is speaking at it, Katherine Heigl and Sofia Vergara are the caterers, Jon Bon Jovi is the entertainment, and Lea Michele is his backup singer. Of course there's also Times Square, where we see Hillary Swank, Abigail Breslin, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Ryan Seacrest. You mustn't forget the hospital where Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Sarah Paulson, Jessica Biel, Seth Myers, Cary Elwes, and Carla Gugino are, either. Oh, and Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer are cruising around on a Vespa. And there's a dog whose name may or may not be iPod. There is so much jam-packed into this film that no storyline is given the chance to breathe or unfold in a way that would surprise anyone. It reeks of stacking the deck to cover up for a pitifully lacking script.
The whole movie feels out of touch with reality, like when your grandma calls your sister a "hot mess" for "smushing" with so many boys. Michelle Pfeiffer has a so-called brush with death that causes her to quit her job and take stock of her life, which really means that a car took a corner too fast near her, made her fall into the garbage (which comes off as hilarious), and then she hires a cute bike messenger to cart her around on a scooter in exchange for tickets to the big record company party. The party, by the way, is supposed to be a masquerade ball, but the costumed extras are only wearing dime store Green Lantern masks--even they're not putting any effort into this movie. At one point Katherine Heigl launches parachutes with chocolate truffles on the ends on them, perhaps in the hopes that they will get distracted from being a part of such a horrible movie.
There's so much wrong here, it's difficult to condense it all into one review. Safe to say that if you enjoy Marshall's standard lukewarm jokes and halfhearted heartfelt speeches, you'll enjoy this film. And for the rest of us, let's preemptively start organizing OccupyIndependenceDay (which I'm sure is already slated for a 2013 release).