A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that New Year's Eve is a star-studded romcom that's heavy on familiar faces (including Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, and many more) and short on depth. It follows several interconnected storylines as people try to make amends for the past year and ring in the new one; the stories are simplistic and saccharine, and though the messages are well meant and everyone's striving to be a good person, there aren't many believable role models. There's plenty of kissing and romance, plus some drinking and swearing (including "s--t" and one memorable "f--k"), and tons of enormous billboards touting products in Times Square.
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What's the story?
It's New Year's Eve, and New York City is teeming with revelers and possibilities. Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), an assistant to a record company exec (John Lithgow), is tired of being mousy and has a list of resolutions she'd like to make real, perhaps with the help an intrepid bike messenger (Zac Efron); a dying man (Robert De Niro) evaluates his life with the help of a nurse (Halle Berry); a back-up singer (Lea Michele) may not make it to the biggest gig of her life if she doesn't get out of the elevator in which she's stuck with her jaded neighbor (Ashton Kutcher); a rock star (Jon Bon Jovi) can barely keep his mind on his performance since the one who got away (Katherine Heigl) is working the same event; a single mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) is battling with her 15-year-old (Abigail Breslin), who wants to have her first kiss when the New Year's Eve ball drops; a recording mogul (Josh Duhamel) hopes to re-encounter a fleeting flirtation; and a city executive (Hilary Swank) must make sure the ball actually drops.
Is it any good?
The problem with NEW YEAR'S EVE is that it's trying to replicate Love Actually, and it fails to measure up. What made Love Actually so remarkable was an ineffable quality that allowed it to be memorable despite the pitfalls of trying to do an ensemble romantic comedy. It broke ground by doing it quite well. And the cast was just so good. And although the ingredients here are virtually the same -- big-name actors; an emotional holiday; quirky, silly storylines that converge at one spot -- the dish served up here doesn't hit the spot the same way.
Why? Not to hammer home the analogy, but it's overcooked. Aside from a few Academy Award winners and nominees (Swank, De Niro, Berry) and the respectable Parker (and to some extent, Heigl), everyone else is trying far too hard to be effortless with material that's far too thin and set-ups that are far too canned. (Director Garry Marshall had the same problem with his very similar Valentine's Day.) Expository dialogue, plot points that can be spotted towns away, and a crowded cast -- it's all here. Very few moments in the movie feel authentic; instead, it incessantly strains to evoke hope, nostalgia, and optimism. Yes, New Year's Eve is highly charged. But no one likes to feel manipulated, not even for auld lang syne.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how New Year's Eve portrays dating and romance. Ask your teens if this is what they think adult relationships are really like.
Did you identify with any of the characters' storylines? Which ones seemed the most believable? Which ones felt completely implausible?
What's the significance of New Year's Eve as a holiday? Is it important to have someone special to celebrate it with? What does the beginning of a new year mean to you?
- In theaters: December 9, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2012
- Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker
- Director: Garry Marshall
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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