JUST AS THE ball drops in Times Square every year, the compilation movie is becoming an annual tradition. While the Brit-inflected "Love, Actually" (2003) is the mack daddy of the genre, the American counterparts began in earnest with "He's Just Not that Into You" (2009) and Garry Marshall's "Valentine's Day" (2010).
Marshall continues his holiday streak with "New Year's Eve," celebrating the one day when, as Ashton Kutcher's bearded comic book artist puts it, "People who don't drink or party all year suddenly are going all Kanye on you."
As with "Valentine's Day," the stories of many freakishly attractive normals mix and mingle, coming together as the story sees fit, whether it's Zac Efron's bike messenger helping Michelle Pfeiffer's repressed secretary check off her resolutions or Jessica Biel and Seth Myers attempt to have the first baby born in 2012 in order to win a pile of cash.
But why does this movie feel so disingenuous when "Love, Actually" felt natural? Is it because there's a true element of togetherness at Christmas, whereas New Year's Eve feels more like a construct of the champagne industry and whoever owns the rights to "Auld Lang Syne"? Or is it because "Love, Actually" was better written and shrewdly edited than this slapped-together, contrived money grab by notable Hollywood names putting in a few days' work for a pile of cash?
For example Robert De Niro is in "New Year's Eve," probably to fund his Tribeca Film Festival. Even director Marshall is guilty of the money grab: In the gag reel, Biel gives birth to two copies - twins! - of "Valentine's Day" on Blu-ray. But frankly, that's forgiven because the gag reel is the funniest part of the film.
In other words, if you can believe Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as a member of the NYPD who seems to be best friends with Hilary Swank rather than just a guy looking to get paid for memorizing a few lines and donning a blue suit, then Happy New Year!