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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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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
American Catholic Blog Touch can be an act of kindness when someone is dying. If you visit a sick person and find that you are at a loss for words, reach out and touch her hand. It will convey your care for her and can have a calming effect. It says to the person, “You are appreciated, you are cherished, and you are not alone.”

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