Reporting Eric Henderson
When asked which holiday I’m least interested in, I usually answer either Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. While my disinterest in the former is just a symptom of my built-in desire to remain single, I have no real explanation as to why I am usually disappointed after the ball drops.
So go figure that director/superstar-ringmaster Garry Marshall has followed up his formless salutatory Valentine’s Day with an even more star-studded “not a sequel” sequel about New Year’s Eve.
There are a few differences to the template. This time, instead of Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts and Taylor Swift, Marshall’s cast includes Halle Berry, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Matthew Broderick, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Cary Elwes, Katherine Heigl, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Ryan Seacrest, Hilary Swank and Sofía Vergara. (Count among the two films’ myriad similarities the fact that Jessica Biel, Hector Elizondo and Ashton Kutcher star in both.)
Marshall’s opportunistic “lesser holiday” epics rip off the template of many a ’70s disaster movie, only with perhaps a little bit less death and destruction.
Basically, you throw as many mismatched celebrities together as you possibly can, and give them all storylines so thin they couldn’t even sustain a single sitcom episode. Which makes sense, since, really, no character in this movie has more than about 7 minutes of screen time — just long enough for some of them (Sofia Vergara, I’m looking in your direction) to thoroughly debase themselves and laugh all the way to the bank.
And somehow from their incredibly thin scenarios, Marshall (working with screenwriter Katherine Fugate, who must’ve assembled her script via a marathon all-weekend session with a fresh book of MadLibs) tries to sell the idea that everyone reaches a life-changing moment of clarity by the time the rest of Times Square is drunkenly slurring “5 … 4 … 2? … 1!!!”
It’s perplexing, but people genuinely seem to lap this hokum up by the ladle. The entire preview audience surrounding me made audible gasps every time a new celebrity popped up for their sketchy characters’ introduction, as though they thought they were settling in for an indie documentary starring young and upcoming ballerinas from Eastern Europe.
Oh, it’s Sarah Jessica Parker as a mother! Oh, it’s Michelle Pfeiffer as a frump! Oh, it’s Ashton Kutcher as an Ashton Kutcher!
Oh, give me a break. If you see just one movie this year … um, wait until next year.
Remember how much you loved Juno? If so, do you also not remember how unbearably horrible those first 10 minutes were? (If not, allow me to remind you. “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.”)
It was to my relief that hometown hero screenwriter Diablo Cody’s latest movie, Young Adult, largely eschewed with the stunt dialogue, and instead focused on the way people use words less like Foursquare badges (oops, sorry, got all Diablo there) and more like weapons.
Young Adult stars a surprisingly well-cast Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a not insignificantly damaged personality from the sticks who has made it reasonably big as a writer (or, rather, ghostwriter) of installments in a series of preteen novels. She’s now living in Minneapolis, a fact that she wields as a mark of obvious status when she decides to take a trip back home to make a play for her old high school flame.
Who is married.
Who just had a child.
Yeah, if Diablo Cody intended for Young Adult to be some sort of coded autobiography for her “hometown girl made good” story, she’s clearly got a few things to get off her chest.
The only thing standing in Mavis’s way in her quest to steal Buddy Slade (a character whose name couldn’t be more Sweet Valley High and who is played perfectly as the befuddled former BMOC he is by Patrick Wilson) is Matt Freehauf (a muted Patton Oswalt), the sadsack loser who, back in high school, was beaten by a gang of jocks who suspected he was gay. Mavis responds by, again, reminding Matt and anyone else who will listen that she and Buddy are meant to be together. It never seems to occur to her that Buddy is none too bright and typically means what he says.
Shots are slammed, people are played, Mavis trudges on, arrogant as you please.
Bottom line, those who loved Juno because of its Minnesota appeal will probably want to think twice before watching the more well-rounded but hardly more flattering Young Adult.