Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Writer Paul Haggis' Honeymoon With Harry, considered by many to be one of the best unmade scripts in Hollywood, is again showing signs of life after years of false starts. Deadline reports that Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper sat down at De Niro's Tribeca Production offices two weeks ago to read the lead roles in a run-through organized by New Line. Now, director Jonathan Demme (Jimmy Carter Man From Plains, Silence of the Lambs) is circling the project for his next feature, meaning Haggis' script may finally be gaining the momentum it needs to enter development.
In what Deadline calls a "James Brooks-style look at two characters who loathe one another but are stuck together at a time when each is in desperate shape," Cooper read the role of a "formerly self-centered womanizing booze-hound who changed his ways when he met a girl and fell in love." De Niro read as "the girl’s father, who recognizes himself in the young man, and tries to break them up." The two get engaged anyway, but the girl dies tragically just before their wedding day, leaving the groom to go on their honeymoon alone, where he drowns his grief in booze. There, he runs into his would-be father-in-law, who has come to spread his daughter's ashes on the beach.
New Line and producer Mike Karz began developing the project, which has both comedy and drama elements, in 2004, when the studio bought an unpublished novel by Bart Baker, and assigned screenwriter and director Paul Haggis (In The Valley of Elah, Crash) to write the screenplay. Haggis eventually signed on to direct as well, and had Vince Vaughn and Jack Nicholson lined up to star. Unfortunately, the project fell apart amidst the chaos of the New Line shakeup in 2008 and the 2007-2008 writer's strike.
Luckily, Cooper became interested in the project, and brought his pal De Niro (with whom he just wrapped production on The Dark Fields) onboard as well. Though no deals have yet been made, it looks like Honeymoon With Harry may finally be edging towards development. With its stars attached and Demme circling to direct, it's beginning to sound like we'll actually get to see what all the fuss is about one day.