As the countdown to 2012 begins, an executive (Swank) is frazzled about a technical glitch in the iconic Time's Square ball-drop. Meanwhile, a courier (Efron) is trying to help a frumpy secretary (Pfeiffer) achieve her dreams. A chef (Heigl) is catering a glittering event while trying to avoid her rock star ex (Bon Jovi), whose back-up singer (Michele) is stuck in a lift with a lovelorn slacker (Kutcher). A mother (Parker) is worried about her teen daughter (Breslin). And a tuxedoed millionaire (Duhamel) is trying to get to an important event in the city.
We also follow a dying man (De Niro) and his sexy nurse (Berry), plus two couples (Biel and Myers, Schweiger and Paulson) racing to give birth at midnight. While the first film had some unexpected twists, this one goes down every predicted route, shying away from anything honest or boundary-pushing to stay as dull as possible. There's not one spark of recognisable truth as the filmmakers indulge in fantasy romance and trite moralising that actually makes you feel queasy.
It's difficult to narrow down the worst bits, but the most painful plot-thread is the one involving the embarrassingly underused De Niro, Berry and Swank (count the Oscars between them!). We never have the faintest doubt that Heigl and Bon Jovi will reunite, despite the meddling Vergara (as Heigl's sou chef) as a stupid version of her terrific Modern Family character. The Kutcher-Michele scenes are mortifying, Duhamel's journey agonisingly sappy, and the pregnancy contest couldn't be less interesting. Even the "surprise" cameos are a let-down.
The only strand that has any charm is the Efron-Pfeiffer story, which is undermined by their hugely contrived series of events as well as the hopeless miscasting of Pfeiffer: as if she could be dowdy. In the end, Efron is the only actor who brings any energy or sex-appeal. The rest of the time we're just longing for the clock to strike midnight so we can get out of the cinema.
Run time: 113 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th December 2011
Box Office USA: $54.5M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 7%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 124
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Garry Marshall
Screenwriter: Katherine Fugate
Starring: Robert De Niro as Harry, Katherine Heigl as Laura Carrington, Ashton Kutcher as Randy, Lea Michele as Elise, Zac Efron as Paul, Josh Duhamel as Sam, Jessica Biel as Tess, Sofía Vergara as Ava, Abigail Breslin as Hailey, Alyssa Milano as Melanie, Hilary Swank as Claire Morgan, Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate, Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid, Cary Elwes as Stan's Doctor, Fiona Choi as Balinese Woman - Resolution Tour