Dir. Garry Marshall, USA, 118mins, 2011
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Hilary Swank, Jon Bon-Jovi, Robert De Niro
Review by Matthew Rodgers
Much like the day that this unofficial sideways sequel to the lamentable Valentine’s Day purports to celebrate, Garry Marshall’s glossy rom-com is unnecessarily expensive and features a group of people you haven’t seen in a long time, let alone in the same room/movie. Those with whom you actually want to spend time are only fleetingly addressed and overall it’s such a huge anticlimax you’ll wish you’d stayed at home. Happy New Year!
Once again trying to replicate the same multi-stranded narrative that worked so well with the genre champ Love Actually, this see’s a new batch of ridiculously successful or good looking people criss-crossing throughout31st December 2011.
At the forefront of proceedings and in no particular order is; Hilary Swank, a government bod in charge of the iconic Times Squareball drop. Michelle Pfeiffer with her non-terminal bucket list, ably assisted by Zac Efron’s cocksure courier. A bed ridden, regret riddled Robert De Niro, who wants to see one last year arrive before dying. And then skirting the periphery of events are Jessica Biel’s expectant mother; Halle Berry’s “blink and you’ll miss her” nurse; the ever-irritating Ashton Kutcher, who’s stuck in a lift with Glee starlet Lea Michele; and Katherine Heigl, a chef who is having a romantic entanglement with Bon Jovi. At the risk of making it sound even more Ludacris (yes, he’s in it too) than it actually is, the remaining plot threads will have to remain a mystery.
Movies such as this are largely critic proof – the success of Valentine’s Day will testify to that. Although the makers still insist on adding to the already ridiculous amount of product placement on show by thrustingDVD’s of their previous effort down the viewer’s throat and disguising it as a joke. This film though is so shoddily assembled and patronisingly contrived that any residual goodwill vanishes.
The acting, as is to be expected with such a large ensemble, was always going to be a mixed bag. Of the auld acquaintance that should be forgot,Biel’s baby antics are farcical, Josh Duhamel’s cross country dash is a charisma free bore and all aspects of the Heigl/Bon-Jovi romance appear to have been scripted by an emotionally stunted soap opera staff writer.
But we’ll raise a glass to the forgotten talents of Halle Berry; used sparingly she has one of the more satisfying and unpredictable character arcs; to Robert De Niro for at least providing some maudlin gravitas amongst the glitter and fluff, even if he is still slumming it; and to the not-so-young-any more, Zac Efron, who along with the dressed down Pfeiffer provides the films only really engaging central plot thread.
Perhaps the most damning criticism of all comes in the form of the end credits, during which the outtakes provide the only genuine laughs in 118 excruciating minutes of saccharine coated, circumstantial rubbish. Roll on Garry Marshall’s Easter Holiday, or an even more exciting prospect, Garry Marshall’s Halloween, simply because it’s further away in the calendar.