You know those clown cars in the circus? They're usually a little Volkswagen bug that brightly dressed clowns climb out of one by one while you watch amazed that so many people could fit into one little car. Once they're all out in the circus ring, the clowns typically run around mugging for the audience, occasionally bumping into each other, and then drive off in a haze of chaos and laughter.

New Year's Eve feels kinda like that.

In case you haven't noticed the overflowing cast list to the right, take a gander. And that's only the beginning; others you'll no doubt recognize include Sarah Paulson, Sofia Vergara, Ludacris, Alyssa Milano, Cary Elwes, Carla Cugino, Jim Belushi, Cherry Jones, Larry Miller, Common, Sienna Miller, Ryan Seacrest, Til Schweiger, Yeardley Smith, and Hector Elizondo. As one of the characters put it, there are more stars than at rehab.

We watch this cavalcade of actors in and around New York City in the hours leading up to New Year's Eve. The opening voice-over sets the scene: "Some people say there's no beauty left in the world. But how do you explain the whole world coming together on New Year's Eve to celebrate hope?" (By the way, your reaction to this line—either sweet agreement or snarky eye-rolling—is a great indicator of how you'll feel about the film.)

Katherine Heigl as Laura, Jon Bon Jovi as Jensen

Katherine Heigl as Laura, Jon Bon Jovi as Jensen

So how do these countless characters gather for said celebration?

Chef Laura (Katherine Heigl) is sweating over her biggest catering job ever—the NYE party for a successful record label. Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), a mega music talent, manages to perform both at that fete and at the Times Square ball drop on national television—all while trying to win back the woman he jilted about a year before. Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) is overseeing the ball drop and its (surprise!) complications before making a secret midnight commitment. High schooler Hailey (Abigail Breslin) wants to be at the Times Square festivities to hopefully land a first kiss from her crush, but her single mom Kate (Sarah Jessica Parker) has her sights set on a meaningful mother-daughter night at home.

Meanwhile, Elise (Lea Michele), an aspiring star who's supposed to be singing backup for Jensen at Times Square, and Randy (Ashton Kutcher), an NYE hater, get stuck in an elevator together. Tess (Jessica Biel) and Griffin (Seth Meyers) are about to give birth—and get sucked into a competition with James (Til Schweiger) and Grace (Sarah Paulson) for the hospital's $25,000 prize for the first baby born in 2012. Frumpy loner Ingrid (Michele Pfeiffer) hires ladies' man courier Paul (Zac Efron) for the day to help her cross stuff off her bucket list before midnight.

Article continues below
Robert De Niro as Harry, Halle Berry as Aimee

Robert De Niro as Harry, Halle Berry as Aimee

We're not done yet.

Harry (Robert De Niro), a grizzled old man dying in a hospital bed with kindly nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) at his side, is just hoping to see the ball drop one more time. And last but not least, tuxedoed Sam (Josh Duhamel) has car problems in a small town and has to hitch a ride with a pastor's family in an RV to get back to New York in time to give an important speech.

All in just under two hours.

If you do the math (eight "major" plot lines in 117 minutes means just a little over 14 minutes per story—and that doesn't account for the intro and sub-plots), you realize the problem: None of the characters or story lines gets explored with any kind of depth. It feels like a bunch of underdeveloped TV sitcom ideas strung together by likable stars.

And it would almost work if there were just more creativity and honesty here. I mean, this is a world where Michele Pfeiffer is a frumpy loner, where a group of teen girls talk about learning how to kiss from an Internet video, where courier Paul zips around New York City on New Year's Eve as if 9/11—let alone crowds—never happened, and where the only actor who plays himself is Ryan Seacrest.

Seth Meyers as Griffin, Jessica Biel as Tess

Seth Meyers as Griffin, Jessica Biel as Tess

New Year's Eve reunites director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate from last year's holiday-themed rom-com Valentine's Day. It's pretty much the same formula—tons of stars, lots of small, interlacing stories, and an idealistic, syrupy depiction of love. You've got to wonder what holiday they're eyeing for next year. Labor Day? St. Patrick's Day? Hanukkah?

Zac Efron as Paul, Michell Pfeiffer as Ingrid

Zac Efron as Paul, Michell Pfeiffer as Ingrid

Toward the end, there's a musical montage of "Have a Little Faith in Me" while all the mini-plots come to their mostly predictable conclusions. It's almost as if the film is begging us to give it a chance. For those who love schmaltzy predictable romantic comedies (you know who you are), extending this grace and this faith will be easy. They had you at Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel.

The rest of us will be rolling our eyes and thinking, Saw that coming … and that … and that. But if you're in that later group and decide to watch it anyway, stay for the bloopers in the end credits. Finally, something worth celebrating.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Which of the characters do you relate to best? Why?
  2. Where do you picture all of these characters next New Year's Eve?
Article continues below
  1. Does the word hope characterize your mood around New Year's Eve? If not, what word does capture your feeling?
  2. How do you usually ring in the New Year? Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them? Why or why not?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

New Year's Eve is rated PG-13 for language including some sexual references. These sexual references mainly come from the pastor's grandpa while he's listening to a story about Sam's love life. His son, the pastor, tells him to pipe down. Paul, the courier, is pretty fresh, though seemingly harmless. High schooler Hailey sneaks out of her home and goes to Times Square to find her friends, even though her mom specifically told her not to. Her mom finds her unharmed and there's mention that Hailey is grounded, though her mom is kind of depicted as overprotective for not letting her daughter loose in one of the most populated placed on the planet on a holiday known for binge drinking. Other than these minor things, the movie is safe for the 13-and-up crowd.

New Year's Eve
Our Rating
2 Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(3 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for language including some sexual references)
Directed By
Garry Marshall
Run Time
1 hour 58 minutes
Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher
Theatre Release
December 09, 2011 by New Line Cinema
Browse All Movie Reviews By: