NEW YEAR’S EVE – Blu-ray review

Never have so many people done so little of substance for something no better than its predecessor.

You remember 2010’s romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day”?  It was the sudsy ensemble movie from director Garry Marshall (“Pretty Woman,” “Runaway Bride,” “The Flamingo Kid,” “Overboard,” “Georgia Rule,” “The Princess Diaries,” and about 800 television comedies from “The Odd Couple” and “Mork and Mindy” to “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley”).  “Valentine’s Day” featured just about every star in Hollywood in separate little episodes, giving each of the cast members about six minutes of screen time apiece and nothing to do.

Same thing here.

Apparently, “Valentine’s Day” did so well at the box office that New Line decided to try it again with 2011’s “New Year’s Eve,” once more retaining Marshall to direct and this time gathering together all the actors they could find who weren’t in the previous year’s film.  Because “New Year’s Eve” turned out to be just as tiresome as “Valentine’s Day” and did poorly at the box office to boot, maybe this is the end of the line for the concept.  Let us hope.

Anyway, Marshall does appear to have persuaded every name actor in Tinseltown to be in this second installment, with the possible exceptions of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt.  And those folks may actually be in the movie somewhere uncredited; I mean, people like Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, and Mayor Michael Bloomburg go uncredited, so maybe there are more actors incognito.  I dunno.  The uncredited actors, though, may have known something about the film the others didn’t and got out easy.

The idea this time is that it’s New Year’s Eve in New York City, about eight gazillion people are gathering in Times Square, and most of them have featured roles in the movie.  The cast is too large to describe in detail, so let me just list some of the actors involved, alphabetically:  James Belushi, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jove, Abigail Breslin, Common, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hector Elizondo, Carey Elwes, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher (I believe the only carryover from the previous film but in a different role), Lucacris, Penny Marshall, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Alyssa Milano, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Paulson, Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank, and Sofia Vergara, among many others.

The plot is one of those things where we see a whole lot of separate and seemingly disparate individuals dealing with their own conflicts, and then by the end of the film we see their lives all intersect.  It’s the kind of story that’s become so popular these days that there’s even a TV show, “Touch,” devoted to the subject.  Expect nothing new here.

Let me give you a quick idea:  The lady (Swank) in charge of the Times Square New Year’s festivities can’t get the big ball to drop properly and needs to seek the aid of an ace electrician (Elizondo) that she’s recently fired.  A record company secretary (Pfeiffer) quits her job when her Scrooge-like boss (Lithgow) won’t give her the time off she deserves; in one evening she heads off to complete a “bucket list” of things she’s always wanted to do in her life, with a young delivery man (Efron) in tow.  A medical patient (De Niro) with cancer, attended by a caring nurse (Berry), lies dying in a nearby hospital, hoping to see the ball drop one last time.  A man becomes stranded outside the city when he runs his car into the side of a road, and he’s got to get to a restaurant by midnight to meet an old flame there he promised to meet the year before.  A divorced woman (Parker) has difficulties with her fifteen-year-old daughter (Breslin) wanting to be on her own on New Year’s Eve.  A caterer (Heigl) meets her old rock-star boyfriend (Jovi) at an event he’s headlining in Times Square.  A couple (Kutcher and Michele) become stuck in an elevator together.  And several pregnant wives and their husbands (Biel, Meyers, Paulson, and Schweiger) are competing to see who will be first to deliver a child on New Year’s Day.

For me, the real star of the show, however, was Sofia Zagana as a sexy sous chef because she has the funniest lines in the movie.  Indeed, they are practically the only funny lines in the movie.  Otherwise, most of “New Year’s Eve” is dull, dull, dull.  It’s treacle from the outset on, the stories schmaltzy and clichéd, the poor actors having practically nothing to do or say.  It’s saccharine throughout and feels like a very old TV sitcom, complete with drippy music.  Worse, we can see a mile off (or an hour in advance) how each of the little vignettes is going to play out.  Yes, as it happens, almost everyone ends up related or connected to everyone else.

While the movie concludes sweetly enough, there’s no denying that, having to abide almost two hours of tedium for the sake of a pleasant finish isn’t worth the effort.  I made a resolution at the end of “New Year’s Eve” never to watch the film again.

There seems to be some kind of unspoken tradition within the Blu-ray industry that the worse a film is, the better its BD picture quality will be.  In this case, the video engineers use a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec to replicate the movie in its native aspect ratio, 1.85:1.  The colors are very natural, very deep, and very rich.  It’s a tad dark and glossy, but otherwise excellent.  Definition is as good as one could want, and evidence of any digital artifacts is nonexistent.

You can’t fault New Line for providing a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack on the disc.  Unfortunately, the lossless sound has little to reproduce beyond a good deal of dialogue and some musical tracks, most the music loud and thumping.  Nevertheless, the DTS-HD handles all of it nicely, with a very clean, clear midrange.

This Blu-ray Combo Pack contains a number of extras, although they are of the most-common variety.  First up is an audio commentary by director Garry Marshall.  Then there’s a six-minute featurette, “The Magic of Times Square,” really a promo for the film.  After that is another six-minute feature, “New Year’s Eve Secrets of the Stars,” wherein some the movie’s actors share their most-memorable New Year’s Eve moments.  Next is the five-minute featurette “Jon Bon Jovi & Lea Michele Rock New Year’s Eve,” which goes behind-the-scenes with the performers.  And then we get eleven deleted scenes, about seventeen minutes total, with or without the director’s introduction; and an eleven-minute gag reel.

The extras on the disc conclude with BD-Live access; twelve scene selections; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Finally, because this is a Combo Pack, the set also includes a DVD of the movie on the flip side of the disc and an UltraViolet digital copy for instant streaming and download, the offer expiring May 1, 2014.  The disc comes housed in a flimsy Eco-case, further enclosed in a light-cardboard slipcover.

Parting Shots:
Your appreciation for “New Year’s Eve” may depend on your tolerance for sugar.  Some people can’t get enough of it; other people can’t stomach even small amounts.  If you’re extremely sentimental and enjoy old-fashioned melodrama without much substance or originality, you may enjoy the film.  If you have a low threshold for corn syrup, you may not be able to stand it.