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Friday, December 9, 2011

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, dated 10 December, 2011, retrieved from

Cast: Robert De Niro, Jon Bon Jovi, Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Ludacris, Sofía Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, Russell Peters, Common

Director: Garry Marshall

Rating: 2.5 stars

Over a decade and a half, multi-starrer rom-coms have become a franchise in their own right, sending out a single message – you can have a daughter of 15, the face of a mule, and the brain of a bird, but if you have a heart of gold, a sensitive, disenchanted, sizzling millionaire will tear through the pages of Mills and Boon and fall in love with you.

Now, a movie’s going downhill when it takes half an hour to introduce you to the main cast, a romantic tale has lost its sheen when it leans on the serendipity that Before Sunrise and P.S. I Love You have already worn us out with, and a comedy has failed when your first laugh of the evening comes upon seeing the chick-on-a-horse-rescuing-women-from-wastage-charges jewellery ad during the interval. Oh, I groaned when the interval was announced – whaa, this is only half over? Yep, the ball on Times Square takes a while to drop.

The second half eventually picks up, though. A cameo by rapper Common makes for a lovely little touch. The sad part is that there are some very decent moments in the film, some well-timed, well-executed quirks – especially in Josh Duhamel’s story – that you know may have salvaged the film if it hadn’t insisted on trudging down the beaten path. As it stands, the movie leaves you feeling like someone studied really hard for an exam, and then downed a bottle of whiskey before entering the hall.

It took me forty minutes to recognise Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays arguably the worst role of her career, as Ingrid the Secretary, who’s “a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic”. Ashton Kutcher plays randy Randy – but if one is stuck on a lift with Kutcher, one supposes making out is as good a way to pass the time as any, especially if all it takes for him to get over a heartbreak and start believing in New Year magic is a breathy song sung in shifting pitches. Russell Peters does his regular gag with an annoyingly fake Indian accent, and the only laughs he got were when he mispronounced a name so that it sounded like a swearword.

Jon Bon Jovi plays rockstar Jensen, and for some reason, jumps about like a frat boy, and struts like he’s trying to keep in a fart. Sofía Vergara plays a character quite similar Gloria of Modern Family, a.k.a. Generic Hispanic Immigrant, but she’s so likeable that you end up laughing at lines like, “In my country, when men go down on one knee, it’s because they want to get married or because they get shot; sometimes it’s both.”

Sarah Jessica Parker plays someone whose name I don’t remember because she only ever plays one role – Carrie Bradshaw. And while her story is meant to be the final twist, the only real surprise is that the filmmakers thought she could pass off for Zac Efron’s sister. I mean, come on.

On the subject, the painstaking efforts at linking up the stories of this loaded cast come off as contrived. The most telling part of the movie may have been a gag in the outtakes, where a woman gives birth to two Valentine’s Day DVDs. Symbolic commentary at its best.

Now, New Year’s Eve is not one of those films where you get one speech full of clichés on human goodness that no one thinks to boo. You get two here – and that’s not counting a father telling his daughter, “I’ve made so many mistakes; you weren’t one of them.” And while we’re talking kitsch, both It’s a Wonderful World and Auld Lang Syne play on cue; celebrities appear as themselves and exaggerate their foibles, as usual. 

The Verdict: Watch only if you’ve recently broken up with someone who used to give you heart-shaped chocolates in heart-shaped boxes on Valentine’s Day.


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