In "New Year's Eve," a policeman explains why he understands so much of life: "I'm a New York cop. People, they tell me things."
Now I have nothing against policemen; but this witless piece of dialog - especially as delivered by rap star Ludacris - is, well ludicrous.
Which is not a bad way to describe Garry Marshall's star-studded follow-up to the similarly star-studded "Valentine's Day" (2010).
Jessica Biel is shown above in a scene from 'New Year's Eve.' Below, Sarah Jessica Parker is also shown in a scene from the film.
That film, despite lukewarm reviews, was fresh, funny and heart-warming; "New Year's Eve," on the other hand, thoroughly deserves the trouncing it received from critics nationwide.
Like its predecessor, the film weaves two dozen major stars into eight or 10 story strands about different couples on the titular occasion.
Why "Valentine's Day" worked remains a mystery; the new film's principal problems are two-fold:
First, New Year's Eve doesn't seem to warrant this much fuss and furor.
Take the line "We now go live to New York headquarters for an update on the situation" - which sounds like an earthquake or an invasion; in fact, the famous Times Square ball has technical problems and might not drop at midnight. Gasp - horrors!
More important, the script never develops enough back-story on its many characters, and we're plunged into their problems (divorce, terminal illness, childbirth, parental conflict) with no chance to sympathize or understand.
One character is developed so briefly that I didn't even figure out who she was till the end - somebody's mother, I think.
This brevity is especially annoying for the dying patient and the middle-aged woman who quits her job - both reduced to giving exposition on their own personalities; this awkward narrative device is rarely used - and now we know why.
The characters' problems feel curiously mechanical, artificial, cooked up solely for the sake of the movie's convoluted plot.
Vain are the efforts of the appealing cast, including Josh Duhamel, Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Cary Elwes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Seth Meyers, Jim Belushi, Jake T. Austin, Zac Efron, John Lithgow and Robert De Niro.
I enjoyed Katherine Fugate's script for "Valentine's Day," but here she's penned such witless duds as: "You are dangerously close to a rectal exam," "My wife is full of yams," and this exchange between Pfeiffer and her boss:
"I almost died today, sir."
"No, you look fine. Can you get me a coffee?"
I've always insisted that Garry Marshall (creator of "Happy Days" and "Mork & Mindy," director of "The Princess Diaries" and "Runaway Bride") doesn't make great films - but that he doesn't make bad ones either; "New Year's Eve" proves me wrong.
My only consolation is that its lackluster box-office take suggests we won't have to suffer through other holiday rom-coms such as "Columbus Day," "Arbor Day" or "Secretaries' Day."