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Apocalypse Please

by Ann Morrow on December 14, 2011

New Year's Day
Directed by Penny Marshall

Lea Michele in New Year's Day

“10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . .” Oh why bother, it’s here now: New Year’s Eve, the worst movie of the year.  Lamer than you’d expect from a movie about watching the ball drop in Times Square, and even crappier than director Garry Marshall’s last holiday-themed exercise in brainless commercialism, Valentine’s Day, this ensemble comedy isn’t even remotely comedic. Everyone in it—with the exception of Zac Efron, who actually seems to enjoy playing the most contrived party boy every put onscreen—goes through the motions as if by remote control. And there are a lot of people in it: from highbrow stars (Cherry Jones) to lowbrow stars (Hector Elizonzo). And the lowest of the low? Robert DeNiro. That’s right, DeNiro. Playing a dying man whose last wish is to see the ball drop (and reciting as if by teleprompter), DeNiro sinks to mere paycheck pimp. And drags Halle Berry as a night nurse down with him. Actually, save that honor for screenwriter Katherine Fugate, who spews cheap sentiment all over Marshall’s interlocking romcom concepts. Even people who Tweet instead of talk will find the dialogue insipid: “It’s like Facebook, only real,” is how one character describes the gala after-party. Yeah, and New Year’s Eve is sort of like a movie, only fake

The grindingly unfunny set-up is this: Since millions of people watch the Times Square ball drop at midnight every year, wouldn’t it be amusing if a handful of them could hook up, or make their dreams come true, or find closure from their pasts? And to do so in a few hours preceding the big countdown? To this end, the film caricatures Michelle Pfeiffer as a brittle spinster who talks like a 10-year-old, Hilary Swank as the ball-drop supervisor who has a fear of heights, Sarah Jessica Parker as the worried mother of a love-struck teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin), Ryan Seacrest as the son of socialite elites who would rather follow his heart, Jon Bon Jovi as a rock star who might make good on jilting his fiancée (Katherine Heigl), and Jessica Biel as a pregnant woman trying to deliver before the stroke of midnight—for money. Meanwhile, whole constellations of dead-ended stars make pop-up cameos: Look, that’s Jim Belushi opening the door! And isn’t that Carla Gugino as the obstetrician? And, jeez, Cary Elwes got really fat!

It’s worse than getting stuck in an elevator with a depressed Ashton Kutcher—oops, that’s part of the plot.