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.
The term “burlesque ” for the uninitiated refers to a specific brand of female striptease that incorporates flamboyant costumes elaborate choreography kitschy songs and various other elements to which heterosexual men are largely indifferent. But it’s wildly popular in other circles -- so much so in fact that it has earned its very own film titled oddly enough Burlesque.
Written and directed by music video veteran Steven Antin Burlesque is fashioned loosely as a camp homage to the 2000 film Coyote Ugly. Stage and screen legend Cher brought to life by an innovative blend of animatronics and CGI stars as Tess the brash tough-as-nails proprietress of Hollywood's almost unbearably fabulous Burlesque Lounge. Despite the obvious popularity of its musical revue the club is plagued by money problems which makes it the target of acquisitive real estate developer Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane) a man whose name alone carries all sorts of ominous Teutonic implications. But Tess determined diva that she is refuses to sell. She's not about to let years of gross financial mismanagement kill her dream of providing a haven where scantily clad women can dance provocatively without fear of encountering men who’d like to sleep with them.
Potential salvation arrives in the luminous top-heavy form of Iowa-bred Ali (Christina Aguilera) a vision of wide-eyed innocence and vaulting ambition in soft focus. Immediately upon entering the Lounge she is struck by the sudden realization that her lifelong dream is to become a burlesque superstar. Unfortunately Tess doesn’t initially recognize Ali’s potential and the poor girl is forced to slum it as a cocktail waitress in the bar area where she’s embraced by the club’s straightgay bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet) a southern transplant whose own showbiz dream involves making it as a songwriter. (In accordance with songwriter tradition he takes pains to ensure that every inch of his chiseled frame is bronzed and waxed. Just like Bernie Taupin.) In her free time Ali devotes herself to the study of burlesque and when her opportunity arises she seizes it without hesitation.
Burlesque is principally the Cher and Christina Show and the film thrives when their respective talents are on display. (“Talents ” obviously gaining a dual meaning in regards to Aguilera.) Surrounding them are a smattering of stock characters pursuing forgettable story arcs the lone exception being the always excellent Stanley Tucci adding a pinkish hue to his incomparable wit in the role of Sean Tess’s long-suffering boa-clad second-in-command. He and co-star Alan Cumming are two sides of the same sassy coin but Cumming is little more than a bitchy bit player in Burlesque poking his head into the frame on occasion to deliver a biting one-liner. Then again that description could apply to any number of characters in the film.
It appears that Antin true to his music-video pedigree conceived of Burlesque with the song-and-dance pieces in mind first then set about building a story around them. (The opposite is generally preferred.) The musical set pieces are lavish sexy and at times truly dazzling especially when Aguilera takes the stage but they do little to advance the film’s plot. Consequently Burlesque’s running time swells to almost two hours to satisfy the demands of a story that frankly seem hardly worthy of such an effort.
After down-to-the wire negotiations with The X-Files creator-producer Chris Carter, the Fox network will feature the ninth season of the sci-fi series on its fall schedule. Fox, however, cancelled Carter's X-Files spin-off, The Lone Gunmen, after one season.
Fox, which unveiled its fall lineup on Thursday, also will air three new dramas and a new sitcom.
UPN also announced a schedule notably for its acquisition of Star Trek: Enterprise and the pairing of former WB shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Roswell on Tuesdays.
Here's a look at Fox's fall lineup:
Fox's Sunday lineup will remain intact, with comedies Futurama, King of the Hill, The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle leading into The X-Files at 9 p.m. After appearing in only a handful of this season's shows, The X-Files' David Duchovny will not return in the fall as FBI agent Fox Mulder.
"I guess he thinks it's time to get on with his life," said Sandy Grushow, president of Fox Television Entertainment Group, Reuters reported.
Duchovny's agent, Risa Shapiro, would not comment.
Mondays will remain David E. Kelley drama night, with Boston Public and Ally McBeal. It is not yet known whether Robert Downey Jr., whose final appearance this season on Ally McBeal boosted the show's ratings, will return follow the resolution of his legal and drug-related problems. The new 20th Century Fox drama Emma Brody will air in the midseason in lieu of Ally McBeal reruns.
Tuesdays will lead with the sitcom That '70s Show, followed by the new DreamWorks sitcom Undeclared, a college kids ensemble, and the new 20th Century Fox/ Imagine Television drama 24.
Wednesday nights will be entirely devoted to sitcoms, starting off with reruns of The Simpson, That '70s Show and Malcolm in the Middle. The second season of the family show Grounded for Life will air at 8:30 p.m., followed by the third season of Titus at 9 p.m. The new 20th Century Fox/ Regency TV newcomer The Bernie Mac Show will close the night's prime-time programming.
On Thursday, Fox will place its animated comedies Family Guy and The Tick at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. respectively, competing against NBC's Friends and CBS's Survivor. Temptation Island 2 will air at 9 p.m.
Fridays will now be the Dark Angel night, which relocates from Tuesday, followed by the new Diane Keaton-directed drama Pasadena, a nighttime soap about the trials and tribulations of a wealthy family in the media business.
Saturdays will remain bad-boy nights, with Cops and America's Most Wanted staying in the same timeslots. MADtv will return at 11 p.m.
UPN has picked up two WB dramas for its fall 2001 season, the alien teen sci-fi drama Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after much debate.
The network will say farewell to its first successful Monday night comedy series, Moesha, after six seasons. The Hughleys will replace Moesha at 8 p.m. A new show about a sportscaster's relationship with his teen-age daughter, One on One will take the 8:30 p.m. slot, followed by the Moesha spin-off, The Parkers, and Girlfriends, at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively.
Tuesday nights will belong to Buffy and Roswell. UPN stole Buffy away from the WB and rescued Roswell after it was canceled by the WB.
Wednesdays will feature Special Unit 2. The eagerly awaited Star Trek: Enterprise, with Scott Bakula at the helm, closes the night at 9 p.m. Thursdays will carry the excitement of WWF Smackdown!, with a two-hour dose of the ready-to-rumble extravaganza. Fridays will become UPN's movie night.