Nails-on-a-chalkboard characters and manipulative heartstring-yanking leave you desperate for midnight to strike.
What better way to celebrate the dawn of a new year than by watching an encyclopedic selection of A-listers play some of the most irritating characters you’ll see onscreen for the next 365 days? From shrill (step up, Sarah Jessica Parker and Katherine Heigl) to plankish (Jon Bon Jovi, Josh Duhamel) to what-are-you-even-doing (Robert De Niro), there’s something here to set everybody’s teeth on edge.
In the mould of director Garry Marshall’s 2010 behemoth Valentine’s Day – or more generously Love Actually – New Year’s Eve follows a multitude of couples in the lead-up to the titular holiday, some married, some exes, some total strangers. Once you’ve recovered from SJP’s syrupy intro voiceover about "the magic of New Year’s", you’ll spend the remaining running time locked into an internal struggle over which storyline you hate the most.
Take Heigl, playing against type as a manic, unlucky-in-love gal who’s sent into a whirlwind of high-pitched resentment when a rock star former flame (Bon Jovi) re-enters the picture. Or Sarah Jessica Parker’s uptight, frumpy single mother (really) who won’t let her daughter grow up, or Michelle Pfeiffer’s drippy worker bee (seriously) who just wants to experience life.
It’s not just that the stories are paper-thin, painfully unfunny and revolve chiefly around Those Crazy Women and how they all need a bloke to set them back on an even keel – it’s that they redefine predictability. Do you think Heigl and Bon Jovi might just make it up in time to kiss at midnight? Will De Niro get his dying wish to see the ball drop from his hospital rooftop?
On the plus side, Zac Efron pulls a Hugh Grant to surprisingly enjoyable effect, ditching his usual nice guy shtick for a sleazy wheeler-dealer type. There’s at least one genuine surprise to be had, too, in that the plot strand involving Ashton Kutcher is actually the film’s least awful, thanks to his pairing with the genuinely charming Lea Michele.
At a push, you might even enjoy De Niro’s barely-phoned-in turn, not least for the ironic sense that in watching him play a dying man, you’re witnessing the final death rattles of his career.
Based on Valentine’s Day alone, the auspices aren’t good. Based on the cast, they’re even worse.
The zipping from one plot strand to another only adds to the general irritation, and the third act’s drag factor will leave you desperate for midnight to strike.
Nothing wrong with an unashamedly sentimental holiday flick, but there’s no excuse for these nails-on-a-chalkboard characters and manipulative heartstring yanking.