Every short-order cook worth his salt knows that if you have an unusable cut of meat, you mince it, mound it, grill it, and serve it up on a bun.

New Year's Eve is the film that asks, "You want fries with that?"

It's a busy, breezy comedy about a broad cross-section of New Yorkers who have in common only breathtaking good looks. And some connection, however tenuous, to the ball dropping in New York's Times Square to usher in 2012.

Let's face it. Any discussion of New Year's Eve begins and ends with the cast - the surreal, Hollywood-agent's-Christmas-card-list cast: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, Jon Bon Jovi, Jessica Biel, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker . . . there simply isn't enough room to list them all.

Even the cameo characters with as many lines as a Snapple cap go to profile players like Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Jim Belushi, and Common.

This is more of a clown car than it is a movie. Would it surprise you to learn New Year's Eve is the handiwork of the same people who brought you Valentine's Day? Same formula, different holiday.

Director Garry Marshall even manages to squeeze in camera time for his sister, Penny, and his longtime good-luck charm, Hector Elizondo. Unfortunately, he also wedged in the creepy tandem of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ryan Seacrest to do the big countdown to midnight.

It would be inaccurate to say there are plots in New Year's Eve. There are a number of setups, and these get shuffled through faster than a card dealer in Atlantic City.

The cast probably didn't even get trailers, they were on the set for so short a time. And they didn't get catered meals, just a bag of peanuts.

If there is a central story line it belongs to Michelle Pfeiffer, unrecognizable as a mousy secretary. Efron steals the film (petty theft at best) as the bicycle messenger Puck who makes Pfeiffer's bucket list come true before the clock strikes 12.

Robert De Niro is also here as a final-stage cancer patient. But apart from not having shaved in a few days, he looks strikingly hearty. What happened to the committed method actor who put on 60 pounds for Raging Bull?

New Year's Eve is too effervescent to be truly disappointing, but it's certainly not intoxicating, either.

The script starts out sparkly enough but after the first half hour it slumps into triteness. The comedy gets flat; the romance gets stale and the melodrama gets predictable.

The party is over in this film long before the ball drops on this New Year's Eve.