ROM-COM fans rejoice! King of the genre Garry Marshall is back with his latest ensemble mash-up in the distinctly seasonal New Year’s Eve.
Set over the course of New Year’s Eve, a gaggle of love-struck revellers in NYC find their stories over-lap as they deal with their end of year tribulations.
From Randy (Ashton Kutcher) the holiday hater who finds himself stuck in an elevator with singer Elise (Lea Michelle), to singleton mother Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) whose daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) is more interested in spending the end of 2010 with a boy than her, it appears New York city is filled with a plethora of people looking for love.
Whether its rock stars trying to unite with exes, or timid wallflowers trying to tick off their resolution list before it’s too late; everyone has something they need to do before 2012 begins.
But with the countdown to midnight ever ticking, can the disparate group of New Yorkers find their true love before the ball drops in Time Square?
More template transposing than seamless sequel, director Gary Marshall’s follow-up to 2010’s Valentine’s Day sounds like a romantic-comedy fan’s mushy mecca.
But while perfect on heart-shaped paper, the Pretty Woman/Runaway Bride helmer may have bitten off more schmaltz than he can chew.
A grade-A cast of Oscar winners (Halle Berry, Robert de Niro, Hilary Swank) and cinematic stalwarts (Michelle Pfeiffer, James Belushi, et al) rub shoulders with rom-com regulars (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel) and rising stars (Lea Michelle, Zac Efron).
And with all cast doing the best they can with their limited screen time - including an on-form Jon Bon Jovi appearing strangely more at home in a love tryst than miming on stage - there is little to fault.
Some assembly required
But it is the it is the combination of the story strands which stutters rather than blinding the audience with star-wattage.
Harsh cuts feel abrupt as Marshall attempts to wrangle multiple narratives into a restrictive two hour runtime.
Never resting long enough on each individual to truly empathise with their stereotypical and predictable tale, he also places harshly contrasting tales together which jar, such as an agonizing account of a cancer victim pouring out his heart swiftly followed by jovial shenanigans in a lift.
Revelling in its seasonal setting, does it meet the mark of the American Love Actually? Not quite.
But while it lacks the smart charm of the Richard Curtis’ neatly packaged present, New Year’s Eve still goes off with a bang for fans of the genre, making it a new acquaintance which need not be forgot.
6/10 - Slushy but solid (rom-com devotees add another point)
See full story in the Chester Leader