When is a comedy not a comedy?
When it's one of what apparently is becoming a series of holiday-themed movies by Garry Marshall.
Valentine's Day was the 2010 date movie from hell -- an all-star cluster-grope that had fewer laughs than a rerun of Laverne & Shirley, Marshall's signature TV show.
Now comes New Year's Eve, yet another mix-and-match mash-up of movie stars, holiday bromides and a laugh-free -- even laugh-retardant -- script by Katherine Fugate.
And Marshall has a full house of star power here, covering the whole demographic spectrum: everyone from Robert De Niro to Jon Bon Jovi, from Halle Berry to Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher to Zac Efron, Lea Michele to Hilary Swank to Michelle Pfeiffer.
Whew. Let me catch my breath. It's like an agent's nightmare -- so many stars, so little screen-time.
Efron and Pfeiffer flit around Manhattan on a scooter, with him playing a messenger and her as a frumpy secretary; she has tickets to an exclusive party, and a list of resolutions -- and she'll give him the tickets if he can help her cross every item off her list. This, by the way, is the only coupling that creates the slightest spark, though not of romantic chemistry.
Swank is the chief of the Times Square ball-drop confronted with a malfunction on the fateful night. Ludacris is her pal, a cop and -- wait, say what now?
De Niro is a dying cancer patient who just wants to see the ball drop one more time. Berry is the nurse who sits with him as he tries to make it to his final new year. (Sob.)
Bon Jovi is a rock star who's supposed to play at both a swanky ball in Brooklyn and Times Square on the same night -- and he's trying to win back Katherine Heigl, as the swanky ball's caterer, who he ran out on a year earlier.
Parker is a single parent who chases her teen-aged daughter (Abigail Breslin) into the midtown Manhattan madness when her offspring runs off to meet friends after being forbidden to do so.
Kutcher is a New Year's-hating comic-book artist who gets trapped in an elevator with Michele, a neighbor en route to her big break backing Bon Jovi in Times Square.
Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel are expectant parents trying to win the prize for having the first baby of the new year. But they're competing with an equally pregnant Sarah Paulson and her husband, Til Schweiger.
And more, so much more, too much more -- and with such little result. Every scene, it seems, has a small nugget that's supposed to be a gag. Every gag implodes mirthlessly. It's rare that a movie is so consistently flat.
Valentine's Day. New Year's Eve. Marshall's got potential projects lined up for years to come.
There's still Christmas, July 4, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day -- even Secretary's Day.
Perhaps he could turn this into a TV series and include Columbus Day - or get into Jewish holidays and include Tu B'shevat (the Jewish Arbor Day).
How could any of those be any worse than this?
Find more reviews, interviews and commentary on my website.