New Year’s Eve not off to a good start

This isn’t a cast; it’s a small country. And if sub-plots were ice cream, we’d be watching Baskin Robbins.

New Year’s Eve stars Sofia Vergara as Ava and Katherine Heigl as Laura in the new romantic comedy from Garry Marshall.

New Year’s Eve stars Sofia Vergara as Ava and Katherine Heigl as Laura in the new romantic comedy from Garry Marshall.

There are a lot of people in the movie New Year’s Eve. I mean, a lot. Like, it’s far too crowded to term this thing an ensemble piece, because the word ensemble doesn’t begin to describe this bloated assembly of famous faces. This isn’t a cast; it’s a small country. And if sub-plots were ice cream, we’d be watching Baskin Robbins.

I almost hate to list all of the stars involved; this column isn’t big enough. Suffice to say, there are a ton of Hollywood players here. Some are screen veterans while some are up-and-comers.

And, unfortunately, that old adage “the more, the merrier” gets trampled by the party-horn blowin’ mob here, because New Year’s Eve is an awful film — a disjointed, unfunny, sentimentally manipulative mess of a sequel. Yeah, I said sequel, because this is a follow up to Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day — only it has nothing to do with that 2009 comedy. Well, except for the overcrowded cast list, the clunky transitions between a traffic jam of sub-plots, the sloppy weaving together of the aforementioned vignettes, the rotten scriptwriting and the forced emotional goo on the home stretch. In other words, it’s a different date on the calendar, different characters, but the same soapy blueprint.

New Year’s Eve obviously takes place on Dec. 31. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a frazzled assistant at a record company that compiles a list of resolutions to accomplish before the clock strikes 2012 and employs charming bicycle courier Zack Efron to assist her, promising some tickets to the Big Apple’s swankiest New Year’s bash as a reward. Performing at that bash is a rock ‘n’ roll star, played by Jon Bon Jovi (little stretch on casting there, huh?), while the head chef for the event is his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Heigl), who, when she takes a break from prepping the gourmet appies, has a serious bone to pick with Mr. Good Hair. Sofia Vergara and Russell Peters play Heigl’s kitchen help — comic relief — in the spare 20 or 30 seconds when Marshall can squeeze in a joke.

Over at the Empire State Building, Hillary Swank heads up a team responsible for the big ball dropping at midnight. Over at the local hospital, Robert DeNiro is a dying man who only wants to make it to midnight to see the big ball drop, despite the fact that nurse Halle Berry and doctor Cary Elwes think it’s doubtful.

Think we’re done? Not even close. Sarah Jessica Parker plays the uptight mom of Abigail Breslin, who’s desperate to be in Times Square to get her midnight kiss.  And, uh, geez, I dunno, I think there are two or three more, but I’m running out space anyway.

These characters aren’t necessarily unlikeable, but they’re impossible to embrace because we don’t know them. And we don’t know them, because there’s not enough time to do so. There are too many things going on and so many things wrong with New Year’s Eve, I can’t recommend it.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give New Year’s Eve a one and a half.  The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living and watching in the Okanagan.