Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 30, 2011

Hits & Pits 2011: Year’s best and worst films

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

It’s been a year of some good films, and far too many not-so-good ones. Several Hindi films worked at the box-office, earning crores of rupees. But only a few were genuinely engaging, quality pictures. In a year of South Indian remakes, dozens of crass comedies, lazy sequels, and star-driven vanity projects, here are my personal best and worst Hindi films of 2011 — what we like to call THE HITS & PITS of 2011.

HITS 2011

We’ll start by taking a look at my five best films of the year – the Hits of 2011. These are personal choices each, not determined by the box-office performance of these films. So right away, my five best films of the year, the HITS of 2011.

# 5 Yeh Saali Zindagi

Violence and love are irresistible ingredients in this film. Under its rough exterior of criminals and gunshots, Yeh Saali Zindagi pleasantly surprised us with a tale of slow-burning passion and complicated relationships. Weaving an engaging yarn with unpredictable one-liners, director Sudhir Mishra gave us a raw film that neatly tied in with its unconventional title.

# 4 Delhi Belly

A stool sample is mistaken for a smuggled package of diamonds…this filthy comic thriller directed by Abhinay Deo was packed with rude humor and shock value. Delhi Belly is the year’s best example of a smart script defined by its quick pace, and enhanced by sharp performances. With its unique cocktail of oddball characters and interesting twists, Delhi Belly may not have been great cinema, but it guaranteed big laughs.

Tying with Delhi Belly at #4 is Rockstar

It was a far from perfect film, but director Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar made up for its flaws with inherent honesty and depth – qualities sorely missing from most movies today. A tale of great passion pieced together with lovely moments, Rockstar had one big shot in the arm – a riveting performance by Ranbir Kapoor.

# 3 Shor in the City

A small film that makes a big noise about different lives coming together in a teeming metropolis, Shor in the City was a sparkling comic thriller that sucked you in from the word go. With three desperate men struggling to make a better life for themselves in a corrupt city, this film — directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK — followed different tracks that gradually intertwined. A touch of magic realism, surprising sensitivity, and quirky humor turned Shor in the City into one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.

# 2 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

It may have been a road-trip for bachelors, but director Zoya Akhtar proved once again that she has a unique gift for storytelling and a distinct filmmaking voice. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara took a light-hearted all-boys journey through Spain to deliver a heartfelt message about seizing the day and following one’s dreams. What stands out are the compelling performances by its leads, and the realization that ultimately boys will be boys.

# 1 Stanley Ka Dabba

Every once in a while comes a film that makes you dip into your memories…taking you back to those wonder years when you shared tiffin boxes in the back benches, and ganged up against a cruel taeacher. Through the simple, bitter-sweet story of Stanley Ka Dabba and its deeper message against child labor, director Amole Gupte skilfully pitted the innocence of children against the egos of adults. Yet, it is the seductive role of food in this film that reminds you of the love in everyday relationships.

Honourable mentions: Dhobi Ghat, I Am, Shaitan, and That Girl in Yellow Boots

PITS 2011

Let’s take a look now at my worst films of 2011, a more difficult list to compile given that there were so many options to choose from. What I settled on, eventually, are five films that were disappointing for different reasons. These are the five films I hated the most this year, the films that were most difficult to sit through in 2011. Again, irrespective of their box-office performance, these are my PITS of 2011.

# 5 Aarakshan

Intended as a scathing comment on the issue of reservation in the education system, director Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan turned out to be a dreadfully boring lecture that was a challenge to survive. Every character was a cardboard caricature, and the plot meandered pointlessly in all directions. In the end, the film didn’t say much that you didn’t already know…and this despite rambling on for close to three hours!

# 4 Game

Just months before he gave us Delhi Belly, director Abhinay Deo made an inauspicious debut with the staggeringly silly crime-thriller Game, that had fancy foreign locations, an attractive cast, and a premise with potential. What it didn’t have was a script! Convoluted, and never true to its own logic, the film’s twists felt underwhelming. A whodunit with neither pace nor thrills, this Game played by all the wrong rules.

# 3 Mausam

You needed nerves to steel to make it through this misguided romantic saga that defied logic and basic common sense. Actor-turned-director Pankaj Kapur’s preposterous love story offered passive characters and the worst climax scene of any film this year. Save for a few charming moments, Mausam was the longest, most painful three hours you spent at the cinema this year.

# 2 Ready

Blockbuster or not, Ready was the laziest film this year – so lazy in fact, that it didn’t even bother with a plot. Director Anees Bazmee cashed in on his charismatic star’s unfailing popularity by stringing together a bunch of songs and slapstick scenes in the name of a film. Even Salman Khan fans deserved better than this lazy, arrogant film.

# 1 Rascals

Vulgar, insensitive, and bordering on the offensive, David Dhawan returned to his crass filmmaking roots with this debauched comedy that made you want to reach into the screen and beat up the actors. What’s worse is that none of it was funny.

Hall of shame: Faltu, Thank You, Teen Thay Bhai, Zokkomon, Luv Ka The End, Bheja Fry 2, Double Dhamaal, Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap, Chatur Singh Two Star, Hum Tum Shabana, Tere Mere Phere, Soundtrack, Tell Me O Khuda, Loot, and Miley Naa Miley Hum.


These are little gems that didn’t have big stars or big budgets. They were honest, well-made films that didn’t make a lot of money at the box-office. You may have missed them in the cinema, but check them out on DVD:

I Am, directed by Onir
An honest film that wove together four stories based on betrayal and starting afresh, I Am addressed relevant themes, but with a silent grace that spoke for its causes.

Bubble Gum, directed by Sanjivan Lal
A coming-of-age film about two teenaged brothers discovering love, Bubble Gum had a fresh tone, unpretentious language, and an innocent appeal that captured life in a small town.

I Am Kalam, directed by Nila Madhab Panda
A heartwarming story of a poor boy who aspires to learn, and to rise above his humble roots, I Am Kalam showed what was possible if one decided to carve one’s own identity.

Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, directed by Nupur Asthana
Look beyond that terrible title and you’ll find a campus rom-com that was funny, but thankfully stopped short of becoming sentimental. What worked in Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge was its young, carefree tone, giving melodrama a miss.

Bol, directed by Shoaib Mansoor
Based on the terrifyingly regressive attitude towards women in Pakistani society, Bol was a small film with a bold heart. Its inherent sincerity compelled you to look beyong its shortcomings.


Each year the movies teach us different lessons. Last year we learnt that greed is good, and that Akshay Kumar isn’t funny anymore. This year we have new lessons. Pay close attention and you’ll be wiser going forward. Here’s presenting the 5 Lessons We Learnt at the Movies in 2011.

Akshay Kumar needs to reinvent himself…quick!
On the same show last year, we came to the conclusion that Akshay Kumar just isn’t funny anymore. This year, we want the star to get some help – in thinking out of the box, and choosing quality over quantity. All his films in 2011 were duds – Patiala House, Thank You and Desi Boyz, while his brief appearances in the flop Speedy Singhs and the average Chalo Dilli did nothing for himself or the films. Akshay Kumar needs a new plan. Fast.

Look South for big bucks
It’s the turn of the strong, larger-than-life hero, taking cues from movies down South. Ready, Bodyguard and Singham were 100-crore-plus hits, and all remakes of Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil cinema. Even John Abraham broke his unlucky jinx with Force, which did respectable business. In an industry that loves formula, the South Indian remake seems here to stay.

Women have box-office muscle too!
2011 began on a high note with No One Killed Jessica, that had powerhouse performances from Rani Mukherji and Vidya Balan. And the year ended with The Dirty Picture, a monster hit riding on Vidya Balan’s…ummm…shoulders. In the same year, Kangana Ranaut pretty much carried Tanu Weds Manu to box-office success. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for – the girls are back in town!

The big guys have lost their mojo
It’s the directors we’d placed our hopes on, but 2011 was not their year. Several big-ticket filmmakers let us down…from Vishal Bharadwaj with 7 Khoon Maaf, Prakash Jha with Aarakshan, and Ramgopal Varma with Not A Love Story, to Pankaj Kapoor with Mausam, and David Dhawan with Rascals. Even Nagesh Kukunoor, once hailed the messiah of small-budget alternative cinema, delivered a dull-as-dishwater dud in Mod. Here’s wishing that 2012 ends up as the year for their comebacks.

Cinema finds a new language
If you were listening, all these films had something different to say. Sharp everyday dialogues laced such films as Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Dhobhi Ghat and Delhi Belly, while movies like Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster and Yeh Saali Zindagi reveled in quirky banter and raw, earthy desire. Meanwhile, Shaitan summoned the recklessness of our youth and indulged in a sparkling visual language – setting up the tone of the film with stylish storytelling. We approve.

(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 23, 2011

Heist makes waste

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

December 23, 2011

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Lara Dutta, Kunal Kapoor, Aly Khan, Om Puri

Director: Farhan Akhtar

In his interviews leading up to the release of Don 2, director Farhan Akhtar has repeatedly said that viewers seeking anything other than pure thrills and entertainment from this film are likely to be disappointed. Going in with strictly those expectations, I’m sorry to report I still came away feeling cheated.

For the film’s plot – which basically involves our flamboyant criminal protagonist (Shah Rukh Khan) assembling a team to pull off a seemingly impossible heist in Berlin – the makers borrow ideas from some fine capers like Ocean’s Eleven and the Mission Impossible movies. Still what they deliver in the end is a clunky and spectacularly boring film that is neither smart nor particularly fun.

Sequel to the 2006 film, which was itself a remake of the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan starrer, Don 2 suffers from lazy writing. This is the kind of film in which a most-wanted international criminal can roam around a prison unsupervised, so he can smuggle deadly chemicals into the premises, and poison the inmates’ dinner.

There are ample car chases, explosions, and plot twists; there’s a globetrotting adventure that kicks off in Thailand, moves to Malaysia, then unravels in Europe. But what’s missing is the slightest hint of urgency or nail-biting tension.  Take that freefall sequence from a Berlin skyscraper; it’s shot stylishly and gracefully, but without any of the messy unpredictability it could’ve done with. Remember that edge-of-the-seat Burj sequence in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol?

For what’s intended as a slick action thriller, Don 2 moves at an unforgivably slow pace. The heist-planning sequences are tedious and repetitive, and involve more talk than action. To be entirely honest, the action itself has a been-there-seen-that feel to it, and some set pieces aren’t even competently plagiarized. A scene in which an A-list star makes an uncredited cameo defeats the very intention of the scene, given that the audience is in on the trick from the word go.

Looking leaner, meaner and less androgynous than he did in the earlier film, Shah Rukh Khan is expectedly the driving force of Don 2. With a cocky swagger and a mischievous smile, the actor delivers cheesy dialogue that belongs in a school play. The bedrock of a good heist film is the interaction between its team, but Shah Rukh towers above his comrades, giving them precious little to do. Boman Irani returns as Don’s nemesis Vardhan, who has been enlisted to help him on the new job. Lara Dutta is his fetching moll, Kunal Kapoor a hacker handpicked for the assignment, and Aly Khan an influential banker blackmailed into volunteering his services.

Priyanka Chopra, on the other side of the moral divide, is Interpol officer Roma, who has some unfinished business with Don. Their scenes together offer some of the film’s most unintentionally comical moments, and while Priyanka looks the part of the ass-kicking tough-chick, the script seldom lets her fly with it.

Don 2 is nicely shot, and there are moments where Shah Rukh Khan is riveting. But that’s not enough to hold your interest for well over two hours…even the actor’s most loyal fans will find themselves yawning. I’m going with a generous two out of five for director Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2. Although packed with fast cars and bikes, this is one slow ride.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Counting days

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

December 23, 2011

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson

Director: Lone Scherfig

One Day, based on a best-selling romantic novel by David Nicholls, is a dreadfully dull film that’s been adapted for the screen by the author himself! Anne Hathaway stars as Emma, and Jim Sturgess as Dex, two students who wind up together on the night of their graduation in 1988. They don’t become lovers, but they do become lifelong friends. The film follows their lives for the next 20 years or so, catching up with them on the same date – July 15 – each year.

That’s the film’s chief conceit, its one clever gimmick – we check in on them for just one day each year, and watch as they make their way through wrong jobs and wrong partners.

Emma is an aspiring writer, but she lacks confidence. Dex just wants to have a good time…and he does too, till everything finally goes south. We notice that Emma has loved him from the start, and we can see that Dex loves her too, but he just doesn’t know it yet.

The problem with the film is that despite rambling on for over two hours, it never really tells us enough about either of the protagonists, and as a result it’s hard to care for them. Dex, in particular, comes off as selfish and obnoxious, and he’s very hard to like, much less understand.

The film feels repetitive and tiring, and although Anne Hathaway has a charming presence, she’s working with such slim material here. You’re reminded of the recent Hindi film Mausam, also about star-crossed lovers who take forever to convey their feelings for each other.

I’m going with two out of five for One Day. What a misleading title that is… One Day seems to go on for days!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 22, 2011

Masand’s Verdict: Mirrors doesn’t qualify as a horror film

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rajeev @ 6:40 am

  Cast: Kiefer Sutherland

Direction: Alexandre Aja

Horror films are meant to spook you, they’re meant to make you afraid of the dark, of staying the night alone in a strange new place. Mirrors starring Kiefer Sutherland as an ex-cop working as a security guard at a fire-ravaged department store, does not qualify as a horror film. Sure the movie’s premise revolves around this security guard discovering spirits in the mirrors that commit gruesome murders, but the film is not so much scary as it is just plain disgusting.

There’s a particularly revolting scene in Mirrors in which an expendable supporting character rips off her own jawbone, making an awful bloody mess in the bathtub. That’s the kind of cheap screams this movie goes for.

Remake of a South Korean horror film, Mirrors comes with an over-complicated back-story revolving around a possessed nun, and the movie’s packed with silly special-effects and bad acting from everyone involved. The sad thing is, you’re hardly ever scared, but you’re very easily exhausted by this 110 minute film which doesn’t even have three genuinely creepy moments that are likely to make your hair stand on edge when you think of the film a few days later.

I’m going with one out of five for Mirrors; the only time you open your mouth is not to scream out of fear, but to yawn out of sheer boredom.

Rating: 1 / 5 (Poor)

Write your own review here and win exciting prizes. Winning entry will be read by Rajeev Masand on his show on CNN-IBN next Friday. Do not forget to leave your contact details.

December 16, 2011

License to thrill

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

December 16, 2011

Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nvqvist, Anil Kapoor

Director: Brad Bird

Midway through Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise’s character, secret agent Ethan Hunt is seen scaling Dubai’s 2,700-foot Burj Khalifa with nothing more than a pair of sticky gloves. Anyone suffering from a fear of heights would be advised to shut their eyes during this breathtaking but also vertigo-inducing sequence that’s been filmed in IMAX, and is believed to be performed by Cruise himself. As the camera stares down from the 130th floor of the world’s tallest building to capture Cruise making his way up unsteadily, more than likely you’ll be clinging to your armrest.

Ghost Protocol is easily the most enjoyable of the four Mission Impossible movies, not least because it borrows the best elements of each of the previous films and fuses them to create a fast-paced, clever, and – believe it or not – humorous adventure. Applying the same “no limits” mantra that he used to turn The Incredibles and Ratatouille into such distinctly original and imaginative enterprises, animation veteran Brad Bird, making his live-action debut here, happily sacrifices plausibility for the sake of fun and thrills. What Bird also brings to the table is that genius Pixar touch, turning Hunt and his fellow IMF agents into a variation of the superhero family from The Incredibles.

Hunt’s team on this new mission comprises tough-as-nails newbie Jane Carter (Paula Patton), gadget-guy Benji (Simon Pegg reprising his role from MI:3), and mysterious desk analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Together the team must overcome all manner of obstacles – including being disavowed by the US President when they’re (falsely) blamed for bombing the Kremlin – in their pursuit of crazy Russian businessman Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nvqvist), who’s determined to blow up the world.

Bird sets the tone early with a cheeky jailbreak scene in Moscow, that’s followed by a nifty sequence in which Hunt and his team penetrate a private vault at the Kremlin using a virtual-reality trick to get past security. The wall-to-wall action continues as the team heads to Dubai for that dizzyingly brilliant skyscraper break-in sequence, and a breathless foot and car chase in a blinding sandstorm. It all ends in good ol’ Mumbai (recreated in Vancouver and Dubai, sadly) where Hunt and his nemesis duel it out at a fancy parking garage with moving platforms.

Despite its improbable plot and frankly preposterous scenarios, Ghost Protocol races along briskly with earnest performances from its central players, until it arrives at that schmaltzy climax. There’s some pleasure to be had watching Anil Kapoor in a cameo as a sleazy Indian billionaire, who sportingly lets Patton’s character take him out in a few quick moves.

Shot and edited with remarkable flair, Ghost Protocol is a treat for the senses. Cruise, who’s pushing 50 but hasn’t lost any of his charm, makes a convincing action hero, exuding warmth, humor and vulnerability to humanize the part. But the film belongs to its captain, director Brad Bird, who recognizes exactly what the franchise needed for a jumpstart.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It’s exactly the kind of film that goes very well with a bucket of popcorn!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Square dance

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

December 16, 2011

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Neha Dhupia, Rajat Kapoor

Director: Saurabh Shukla

For possibly the nth time in recent memory, Vinay Pathak returns to play the everyman in director Saurabh Shukla’s slice-of-life drama Pappu Can’t Dance Saala, which flirts with the issue of migrants struggling to make it in Mumbai.

Pathak’s character Vidyadhar arrives from Benares when he lands a job as a medical representative here. Almost immediately he finds it hard to wrap his head around everything from Mumbai’s street-food and traffic, to the colloquial Hindi spoken by its residents. He’s also particularly offended by his bindaas new neighbor, a backup dancer played by Neha Dhupia, who throws loud parties at her flat next door. When she’s evicted from the building following a complaint he makes, she forcibly moves in with him.

Predictably, the film goes down the romantic-comedy route from this point on, and there are some charming moments between the leads. Unfortunately, however, the script meanders in its final act to focus on the relatively inconsequential subplot of Dhupia’s sudden career upswing…and here the film has lost you.

Nicely performed by Pathak, and particularly by Dhupia who reveals great vulnerability as a star aspirant toughened by a tough city, Pappu Can’t Dance Saala is a film with some heart.

I’m going with two out of five for director Saurabh Shukla’s Pappu Can’t Dance Saala. Too bad they didn’t spend more time hammering out a better script.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

That familiar feeling

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

December 16, 2011

Cast: Sunny Gill, Simran Mundi, Aly Khan, Achint Kaur

Director: Pawan Gill

For love or money – that’s the age-old problem rearing its head in Jo Hum Chahein, an urban romance starring newcomers Sunny Gill and Simran Mundi. On the surface, this film reminds you of the Shah Rukh Khan hit Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, with its theme of a hero conflicted by his ambition into sacrificing his values.

Gill plays Rohan, an MBA graduate who has little time for his only family, his dad, because he’s too busy climbing up the corporate ladder to success.  The more Rohan bumps into sweet-natured, aspiring actress Neha, played by Mundi, the more he falls into a relationship with her. Meanwhile, there’s a Wall Street Gordon Gecko-like character in Rohan’s office, played by Aly Khan, who mentors him into becoming a toy boy for a wealthy, sexy widow (Achint Kaur offering the film’s most measured performance), just so their company can play the stock market with her millions.

Debutant writer-director Pawan Gill updates this familiar story with some real touches – the film’s heroine doesn’t shy away from pre-marital sex, and when it comes to having a baby she makes a rather radical choice. What helps this mostly formulaic film forward is the spiffy camerawork and a music score that’s catchy and fresh, especially the glossy Ishq hothon se number, shot in picturesque Ladakh.

Jo Hum Chahein endeavors to strike a fresh note, but alas, it’s let down by the weight of its trite dialogues. I’m going with two out of five for Jo Hum Chahein – it’s a decent first effort, even though it smacks of sameness.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 15, 2011

Shah Rukh Khan on facing competition from Ranbir Kapoor

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:45 am

In this excerpt from an interview with Rajeev Masand, Shah Rukh Khan talks about facing competition from younger actors like Ranbir Kapoor, and also reveals his affection for his idols Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 9, 2011

Woh con hai?

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

December 09, 2011

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Dipannita Sharma, Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Sharma

Director: Maneesh Sharma

As Dimple Chaddha, the motor-mouthed spoilt-little-rich-brat who’s lattoo over her gym-trainer boyfriend, newcomer Parineeti Chopra steals Ladies vs Ricky Bahl from under the nose of its leads. Whether she’s barging into her father’s office, demanding that he help solve her boyfriend’s property dispute, or drooling over the sight of the man who duped her of her affection and her money, she’s the most charming thing about this inconsistent film.

Dimple from Dilli, along with Raina from Mumbai (Dipannita Sharma), and Saira from Lucknow (Aditi Sharma) – discover they’ve each been swindled by the same deceitful charmer (Ranveer Singh). Now the trio puts their heads together, and comes up with a plan to get revenge on him – they hire a woman (Anushka Sharma) to con the conman.

The film’s first half hour or so plays out breezily, where everything from Habib Faisal’s delightful dialogues to Ranveer Singh’s performance as an earnest, middle-class Dilliwala hits the right note. The Mumbai chapter is engaging too, where Ranveer assumes the identity of an art exhibitor, but by the time we reach the Lucknow portions where he pretends to be a trader of zardozi designs, the screenplay has slipped into a predictable, episodic routine.

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl nosedives further post-intermission because of script holes the size of craters. The trio of women tracks down our hero way too conveniently, and you can’t help but question how a seasoned conman could so easily be charmed into parting with his cash. Doesn’t help either that the narrative is interrupted far too often with unnecessary songs.

Director Maneesh Sharma grounds his characters in reality, but unlike last year’s terrific Band Baaja Baaraat, this time he’s saddled with a clunky script. Good for him, he’s got actors he can count on. Anushka Sharma is in fine form as the pushy salesgirl who’s hired for this improbable mission, but the script asks so little of her. Ranveer Singh is competent and gets some lovely moments to shine – watch how he virtually casts a spell on a girlfriend’s parents when he carries her home in the wee hours of the morning, promising them he’ll always safeguard her dignity – but after a crackling debut as a quirky unconventional lead last year (in BBB), with this film he’s struggling to fit into the traditional definition of a star. The film belongs to its three supporting actresses, and particularly to Parineeti Chopra who injects a huge dollop of zing into what might have otherwise been a glossy failure.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Maneesh Sharma’s Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. It’s an easily watchable film with much to smile about. Pity…it could’ve been so much more fun.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Shooting stars

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

December 09, 2011

Cast: Hillary Swank, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara,  Josh Duhamel, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele

Director: Garry Marshall

Considerably less syrupy than last year’s Valentine’s Day, but cut from the same sappy cloth, New Year’s Eve, directed by Pretty Woman’s Garry Marshall, features an all-star cast of big-ticket names playing hopelessly mushy New Yorkers whose lives conveniently intersect on – what else but – December 31!

The Big Apple setting lends this film more character than the generic ‘any-town’ feel of the LA-based Valentine’s Day, and there is some pleasure to be had taking in the sights of a decorated Manhattan in the holidays. But Marshall continues to exploit every conceivable scenario for schmaltz. So you have innocent first kisses, ex-lovers reuniting, midnight rendezvous, dying fathers, newborn babies, husbands at war, and strangers trapped together. By the end of it, you won’t need any sugar for your tea.

Hillary Swank is a Times Square party planner who finds herself in a tight spot when the famous ‘ball drop’ tradition appears jinxed under her watch. Katherine Heigl plays a chef hired to cater a party at which Jon Bon Jovi, playing her ex-rockstar boyfriend, is to perform. Ashton Kutcher is a grumpy killjoy who gets stuck in an elevator for hours with a cheery backup singer, played by Glee’s Lea Michele. Sarah Jessica Parker shows up as the overprotective mother of teenaged Abigail Breslin. And Jessica Biel is a pregnant mom-to-be, competing for the new year’s ‘first baby’ prize money against a rival expectant mother. The cheesiest track belongs to Robert De Niro who stars as a dying patient who wants to see the ball drop one last time in Times Square, and Halle Berry as the considerate nurse he appeals to.

Of the various narrative threads criss-crossing into each other, the most genuinely affectionate one involves Michelle Pfeiffer as a dowdy neurotic who hires a young courier boy, played by Zac Efron, to help her meet her list of resolutions. Also deserving of a thumbs-up is Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara as Heigl’s charming junior chef.

There are more actors in this – Josh Duhamel, Carla Gugino, Matthew Broderick, Ludacris, Hector Elizondo, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, even Russel Peters doing an Indian caricature. And while it’s fun to play spot-the-celebrity during the film’s two hours running time, New Year’s Eve isn’t nearly as witty or enjoyable as that similarly-structured holiday movie, Love Actually.

I’m going with two out of five for New Year’s Eve. It’s frothy and forgettable. Just don’t expect anything more.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress