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New Year’s Eve

by on December 10, 2011
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Garry Marshall is still trying to remake “Love Actually.” What Garry Marshall hasn’t quite grasped is the reason “Love Actually” worked: Director Richard Curtis mixed broad comedy with authentic gravitas and created a varied but self-contained world with distinctive characters, each of whom could have starred in his or her own movie. In contrast, the characters in “New Year’s Eve” are archetypal and many questions are left unanswered. But the result is still optimistic and as bubbly as a plastic flute of discount champagne on the much-anticipated night.

In “New Year’s Eve,” various stories — some incorporating characters from Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day” — intertwine on the titular evening in New York City, site of the famous Times Square ball drop. Some work better than others. A love story between Jon Bon Jovi’s commitment-phobic rock star and Katherine Heigl’s wronged chef is an exercise in typecasting. Ditto Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers, both utterly flat in the silly struggle of an expectant couple’s race to win a cash prize for having the first baby of the New Year (farfetched even for a romantic comedy).

However, Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron bring sparkling charm to the tale of a wistful secretary who hires a peppy bike messenger to make her list of grandiose resolutions a reality. Sarah Jessica Parker is sweetly believable as a doting mother to teenage Abigail Breslin, who just wants to hang out with her friends and possibly get kissed in Times Square. And screenwriter Katherine Fugate turns the most cliche of plot devices — sticking two opposites together in a busted elevator — into a genuinely cute connection for jaded slacker Ashton Kutcher and ambitious songbird Lea Michele.

All the tropes of a romantic comedy are present in “New Year’s Eve,” for better and for worse: gay and ethnic stereotypes, surprise cameos, the Black Eyed Peas, a musical number. Yet despite its fluff and flaws, “New Year’s Eve” is fun. It’s not “Love Actually.” It’s not even close. But as a Friday-night escape or Christmas-vacation family field trip, it’ll do. It’ll do just fine.