If only life were as simple as a Garry Marshall ensemble movie where better, worse or status quo, everyone deals successfully with their circumstances.
For "New Year's Eve" Marshall has assembled a collection of couples, singles and trios all in varying life phases - from two expectant moms to a dying man, and two strangers trapped on an elevator - as the ball begins its journey down the pole in Times Square.
You want the hope to be contagious. How can you make it happen for everyone, except by following this script's words on a movie screen? Do it with less wholesale political correctness. Mushy sentimentality? Keep some, lose the obvious.
Marshall has one of the strongest knacks for seamlessly interweaving otherwise disconnected events into serendipity. He's also better than most at tying up or discounting dangling characters. And, the former television writer/producer ("Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley) had an impressive big screen start with hits such as "Pretty Woman," "Beaches" and "Nothing in Common."
"New Year's Eve's" ensembles have varying degrees of merit. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele on the stuck elevator offer the most inventiveness, while the main storyline surrounding Hilary Swank, as the woman in charge of the ball drop, contains so many insertions of chance timings that it sputters as the most cliche ridden and hopelessly unrealistic of the tales.
The story of Hailey (Abigail Breslin) growing up and mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) not being ready to deal with it has the potential for further teen agonies and ecstasies, while the bit about the younger delivery man (Zac Efron) making a cougar's (Michelle Pfeiffer) resolutions come true bats 50/50 for clever surprises.
Romantic comedies have taken a box office dive and, though, in the spirit of "Valentine's Day," the "New Year's Eve" result unreels, lacking a similar degree of freshness. I can't dub it "puke-up-able" as did Rolling Stone; however, I agree with Roger Ebert that many of the 24 stars have too little to achieve.
Still, if you enjoyed his previous offerings ("Princess Diaries," "Raising Helen"), this one serves as a goodly cooked Christmas turkey dinner (pardon the double meaning; it depends on your own holiday movie palate).