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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

New Year's Eve

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Michelle Pfeiffer in "New Year's Eve."
A disappointing salute to an often disappointing social event, "New Year's Eve" (Warner Bros.) wastes a talented ensemble cast on a painfully forced romantic comedy.

Reuniting for a follow-up to 2010's "Valentine's Day," director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate weave a web of love stories largely free of the moral tangles that marred their earlier collaboration. The humor falls flat, while the script's strained effort to transform Dec. 31st into a kind of secular High Holy Day is simply irritating.

Part of the problem may be that there are just too many thin characters on screen—with too little time devoted to any one of them—for viewers to form sympathetic connections.

The movie tracks the intersecting paths of Claire (Hilary Swank), the executive in charge of the titular holiday's iconic celebration in New York's Times Square; a rock star called Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) who's headlining the evening's entertainment there; Laura (Katherine Heigl), the up-and-coming caterer to whom the rocker was once engaged; and Elise (Lea Michele), one of Jensen's backup singers who finds herself trapped in an elevator for hours with Randy (Ashton Kutcher), a slacker.

Also thrown into the mix are Robert De Niro as a dying hospital patient, Halle Berry as his faithful nurse, Michelle Pfeiffer as an inhibited middle-age office worker out for adventure and Zac Efron as the free-spirited bike messenger she enlists to help her find it. And that's not even mentioning the pair of married couples—played by Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger—aggressively competing for the $25,000 prize awarded to the first baby born after midnight.

Yet another story line, this one revolving around the mother-and-daughter duo of Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Hailey (Abigail Breslin), demonstrates the noticeable—and welcome—shift in tone between Marshall and Fugate's previous offering and this one. Hailey's rebellion against overly protective Kim is sparked by the 15-year-old's desire to obtain her first kiss from a classmate.

Also showing that the filmmakers have not entirely abandoned their old ways is the minor figure of a frisky grandpa. He pops up in still another plot pod, this one concerning a young record industry mogul portrayed by Josh Duhamel. As Gramps' family helps Duhamel's character return to the Big Apple after a minor car crash in the wilds, the less-than-staid patriarch evinces a prurient interest in their passenger's sex life.

The old-guy-talking-dirty gambit, needless to say, fizzles like inferior champagne. As for the attempt to celebrate year's end as an opportunity for mutual forgiveness and fresh dreaming, it's as strident as a noisemaker and achieves a similarly jarring effect.

The film contains some sexual references and humor, at least one use of the F-word as well as occasional crude language and crass slang. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

Life's Great Questions

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
May this birthday mark the beginning of new and exciting adventures!

Sts. Peter and Paul
Honored both separately and together, these apostles were probably martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero.

Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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