A few weeks ago I was walking along a New York subway platform when I noticed the movie poster for Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the follow-up (same director, same writer, same producers) to 2010 Valentine’s Day. Both are pretty much the same film, a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Holiday minus the mad-cap. Star-stuffed and ostensibly full of good cheer, the pair are actually extremely cynical — “If we just put a ton of actors on screen, and then tie them all together with a holiday conceit and then put all their names on a poster, people will just come, right?”
I counted the number of names on the poster for New Year’s Eve. There were eighteen. One of the names (Til Schweiger) was totally new to me. And one (Hector Elizondo) was just baffling — What manner of person will be lured into this movie because of the presence of the guy from The Princess Diaries? I later remembered that Hector Elizondo has been in every movie directed by Garry Marshall, and that being in Garry Marshall movies is probably the only way Hector Elizondo’s name will ever appear on a movie poster.
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Eighteen name actors in a movie just under two hours long. How much screen time could any of them possibly have? Well, I found out — and all it took was a legal pad, the timer on my iPhone and a preview screening. I logged how long each actor mentioned on the movie poster was either directly on screen, in a scene with another person, or heard in voiceover (and since both Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele are in this movie, there’s a lot of singing going on). I may have missed a few seconds on either side of a scene as I re-started my clock, but these times are pretty close:
Lea Michele—14:29; a back-up singer for an aging rocker, the Glee star gets stuck in an elevator with Ashton Kutcher’s character on the way to her huge New Year’s Eve gig. This could be her big break, guys! Between her time directly on screen and the three songs she sings or does backup on (at 2:10, 2:36 and 3:00), Michele owns this movie as much as anyone in this cast can.
Hilary Swank—13:58; as the second-in-command of the Times Square Alliance, it is her job to make sure the giant, diamond-covered ball ascends and drops on schedule. She is also afraid of heights, which is…ironic? Is that irony?
Michelle Pfeiffer—12:30; As our critic Mary Pols wrote, Pfeiffer essentially reprises her role as Selina Kyle (pre-Catwoman) from Batman Returns. A bespectacled, haggard-looking secretary who finally gets up the nerve to start checking things off her list of New Year’s resolutions (go to Bali, save a life, kiss someone on New Year’s Eve), she hires a bike-messenger to help her accomplish it all. Which means that come January 1, her list being complete, she’ll have nothing to look forward to in 2012.
Josh Duhamel—11:10; A good-looking cad about town who finds himself in Connecticut (or some other state surrounding New York City) for the intimate wedding of a close friend, he is fundamentally unable to use the GPS device in his car and must hitch a ride to the city with a pastor and his family. Along the way, he learns some life lessons. How his bland good looks are deserving of this much screen time is unclear.
Zac Efron—10:59; A New York bike (sorry, scooter) messenger, Efron’s character agrees to help Michelle Pfeiffer in exchange for a set of tickets to the “hottest party of the night!” When we see the party, it looks deathly boring, and someone gives a speech about their dead father. Happy new year!
Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel—10:36; Seth Meyers is too funny for this movie. Why is he here? Probably because it was filmed in New York City, and he was like, “I got all this free time between writing for Saturday Night Live and being on Saturday Night Live, and it looks like I’m only in the movie for 10-minutes or so, and I get my name on a movie poster—that’s how this works, right?—Ok.” The pair are a pregnant couple who discover that a cash prize awaits the parents of the first baby to be born on January 1.
Jon Bon Jovi—10:31; Mary Pols also wrote in her review of the film that everyone in this film looks sort of terrible. Bon Jovi might come off the worst—it’s like he scared off every makeup person on the set. As Jensen, the nation’s hottest music act (terrible name), he spends much of the movie trying to win back the heart of a woman he ditched on the previous New Year’s Eve and the rest of it singing, which is the only reason he was cast in this film. Jensen? Terrible name.
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