The formula is a simple one…
A.- Pick a major holiday—hopefully one that lends itself to ‘light’ love stories.
B.- Write a series of basically everyday Lifetime-like boy-girl episodes that can be tied together at the end.
C.- Hire a name cast with mucho chick appeal for a fast shoot.
D.- Release the finished film right around the time of its namesake holiday.
That’s what director Garry Marshall did not so long ago with VALENTINE’S DAY. And guess what? IT WORKED!
Matter of fact, it worked so well in terms of ticket sales he and his filmmaking team immediately sought out their next target: New Year’s Eve. Surely there’d be plenty of back stories to fill an overlong, 2 hour follow-up flick!
And I guess there are.
Especially if you’re not very demanding or judgemental in your servings of extra-light laughs—you know the kind that are usually interrupted by commercials every 10 minutes or so.
Hard hitting stuff like PR person Hilary Swank’s agony of the crystal ball gatting stuck on Times Square just prior to the midnight countdown.
Ashton Kutcher being stuck in elevator with a babe.
Competing couples trying to deliver their babies for big bucks as the first born of the new year.
Robert DeNiro wanting to experience it all just one more time from his hospital deathbed.
I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you beyond quoting one meaningful line from the movie that pretty well sums it all up: "It’s like Facebook—except it’s real."
For the record, NEW YEAR’S EVE is an intertwining romantic ensemble comedy of a group of New York couples and singles as they navigate their way through a series of vignettes of love, hope, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts. All coming together of course for the big payoff at the end.
Does it work?
Oh, I guess it does in its own Oxygen Network-like way—especially if you’re a female between the ages of 25 and 49, the film’s target audience.
As for the guest lineup, the filmmakers probably had to back up a Brink’s truck for the payroll. Then again many of the name cast members probably filmed their vignettes in a day or two and did it for much less than their normal paychecks.
And profit ‘points’ could’ve been another consideration.
The list of willing participants is impressive as they include such heavyweights as Robert DeNiro, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ashton Kutcher. Also on board for this NEW YEAR’S EVE blowout: Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Ludacris, Seth Meyers, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vergara, Sienne Miller, Jon Bon Jovi, Sara Paxton, Josh Duhamel, Hector Elizando—and you guessed it—Ryan Seacrest as himself.
If there’s one tip of the hat I can give here, it’s to the filmmaker’s almost seamless blending of actual New Year’s Eve footage shot on location at Times Square on December 31, 2010 and all the additional scenes filmed after the Big Apple’s big night. (Even though a few ‘Happy 2011’s’ can be spotted in the crowd on the close ups, it’s all 2012.)
Has schmaltz director Garry Marshall done better during his storied career in Hollywood?
That depends on one’s taste since his contribution to our elightment has included everything from HAPPY DAYS and LAVERNE & SHIRLEY to RUNAWAY BRIDE, THE PRINCESS DIARIES and the ultimate whore-to-princess fairytale, PRETTY WOMAN.
So maybe NEW YEAR’S EVE is but another band-aid on his glory days in Hollywood. Let’s pray that there won’t be a Thanksgiving-centered followup in the near future.
It could prove to be a turkey.
Being the kind soul that I am, and it’s the holidays and all, I’m celebrating 2-1/2 out of 5 fingers for NEW YEAR’S EVE.
JACK GOES TO THE MOVIES: Kansas City’s Radio Movie-Magazine airs Friday morning’s at 6:40 a.m. on NewsRadio KMBZ Am & Fm and at 8:20 a.m. on 1660 Radio Bach. Also anytime on Time-Warner Cable’s K.C. ON DEMAND, Channel 411.