March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Witless 'New Year's Eve' is nothing to celebrate


If your holiday wish is for one more cruise aboard “The Love
Boat,” director Garry Marshall may be your cinematic Santa: Although Captain
Stubing and cruise director Julie McCoy may have missed the boat, “New Year’s
Eve” managed to shanghai plenty of big (and not-so-big) names into appearing in
a witless, thoroughly synthetic sitcom, albeit one you have to pay good money
to watch.

A follow-up of sorts to last year’s “Valentine’s Day” —
which was nothing to shout about in the first place — “Eve” shoehorns as many
stars and starlets as possible into a bunch of thinly conceived playlets about
that old devil called love. For all the talk about romance and hooking up,
however, passion is conspicuously absent. As much as “Eve” celebrates desire
and devotion, Katherine Fugate’s screenplay doesn’t present a single believable
coupling (although it does include enough uses of the phrase “ball drop” to
make you wonder if you’re in close proximity to a junior high boys’ locker

Even such seasoned pros as Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro
and Sarah Jessica Parker can’t give the movie a lift. Poor Hilary Swank proves
once again that you can win two Oscars and still be utterly incapable of
playing comedy. As for Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Lea Michele
and Zac Efron, they romp around making silly faces and reading their lines as
if they were performing in a dinner theater that catered to the

It’s perfect entertainment for those who do all their
seasonal shopping at the dollar store and wrap their presents in old grocery

The half-baked stories range from the old
strangers-stuck-in-an-elevator (Kutcher and Michele) to the even more
moth-bitten new-sparks-ignite-between-old-flames (Heigl and Bon Jovi). Parker’s
vignette about a divorced mom who dotes too much on her teenage daughter
(Abigail Breslin, slathered with so much makeup that at first it appears the story might be about high school call girls) goes off the rails around the time that Breslin abruptly
lifts her shirt in the middle of a busy subway station and crows, “This is not
a training bra!” DeNiro’s plays a dying man determined to persuade nurse Halle
Berry to grant his last wish in an episode that’s turgid instead of touching,
and Pfeiffer’s segment, in which an unappreciated executive secretary finally
decides to have some fun, never really clicks. (In a striking example of art imitating life, Pfeiffer enters the movie by tumbling into a pile of garbage.)

And let’s not even talk about
the heated competition between two expectant couples (Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers; Til Schweiger and Sarah Paulson) to see which will deliver
the official first baby of the new year; what could be less welcome than another
delivery room freak-out scene with a profanity-spitting mom-to-be and a hapless

Further undermining the film is Marshall’s reliance on
broad, sometimes offensive stereotypes, such as a voluptuous spitfire (Sofia
Vergara) who can’t stop mangling the English language or throwing herself at
rocker Bon Jovi — tee hee hee, it’s funny when Spanish people are slutty! — or
hand-flapping, hip-swinging gay characters who exist only to drop a few naughty
words and a couple of sassy expressions into conversations.

No wonder “New Year’s Eve” leaves you feeling like 300
champagne corks have just been popped — directly in your face.