There'll be a lot sore celebrity heads after this New Year's Eve party sees the light of day. Michelle Pfeiffer is the only star who properly shines in this follow-up to Valentine's Day from director Garry Marshall.
The rest, including Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher and Halle Berry merely go through the motions while Robert De Niro literally drags himself into 2012 with his last dying breath. That's not giving anything away in a multi-strand plot that clearly signposts every twist and turn in the first ten minutes. And from there, it's a long countdown to the end...
Pfeiffer plays against type as a bitter hag who has watched her life go by from behind a desk and finally resolves to make her dreams come true - all before midnight. She's aided in the quest by High School Musical's Zac Efron, who is so resolutely upbeat you fear he might burst into song at any moment.
This leads into a series of sketches, the funniest of which sees Pfeiffer swinging like a sack of dirty laundry from the rafters of a Broadway theatre. Meanwhile, Jessica Biel is vaguely amusing as a pregnant woman determined that her child be the first born of 2012. It becomes a frenzied contest with another couple, but the gags quickly run dry.
The director of Pretty Woman also makes time for romance, but whereas that film made you believe in fairytales, this one gets lost in the clouds. Katherine Heigl and Jon Bon Jovi (unconvincing, even as a version of himself) are ill-matched in a story that seems to suggest happiness is giving up on your dreams.
On the other side of town, a moody Ashton Kutcher is trapped in a lift (not to mention an old cliché) with one of JBJ's backing singers. Sarah Jessica Parker is forced to relive scenes from I Don't Know How She Does It as fussy mum to Abigail Breslin, and Hilary Swank gets in a flap as the events organiser trying to ensure the ball drops in Times Square come midnight.
As a hospital patient, Robert De Niro plays the only character grappling with a life or death situation except that with all the emphasis he puts on seeing that ball drop 'one last time', it's really a forgone conclusion. His rattling moans also dampen the party atmosphere that Marshall is working so hard to build up and Halle Berry adds a heavy dose of saccharine sentiment as the nurse at his bedside.
Laughter is, of course, the best medicine, but there isn't nearly enough of that. Observational humour is ditched in favour of predictable set-ups and comedy accents (i.e. an Indian chef and Sofia Vergara as a mucho loud-mouthed Latina). Blink and you might miss a star cameo, but even so, there's no sparkle to the film. It's tacky like week-old tinsel.