3 Stars — Uplifting

Everyone needs love, forgiveness and a second chance. That simple truth is the theme of Garry Marshall’s holiday film New Year’s Eve.

Similar to other Marshall films with a positive message, such as The Other Sister, Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, we recommend his work.

Written by Katherine Fugate, who joined forces with Marshall in their 2010 film Valentine’s Day, the focus of the tale is again on relationships. Weaving together a variety of lives on the eve of the new year 2012, it is clear that the majority of these people are working through the difficulties in their relationships over the past year. The difficulties are many and the resolutions are predictable, but there are some surprising twists that add complexity and interest to the tales.

One of the people we meet is an employee (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is unappreciated by her boss, a father (Robert De Niro) who regrets his life and only wants to live to see the ball fall on New Year’s Eve, and a single mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) whose daughter (Abigail Breslin) wants to get her first kiss at midnight.

But these are only a few of the characters, and just as engaging are a young courier (Zac Efron), a caring nurse (Halle Berry), a young mom in labor (Jessica Biel), a budding caterer (Katherine Heigl), a rock star (Jon Bon Jovi), a cartoonist (Ashton Kutcher), a back-up singer (Lea Michele), a wealthy bachelor (Josh Duhamel) and others.

Although the change of a calendar year is an artificial focal point, it does provide the opportunity for all of us to stop and evaluate how our lives are going and what changes we need to make. This is symbolized in the film when the ball that is meant to drop in Times Square stalls and must be fixed. Responsible for the ball’s descent, Claire Morgan (Hillary Swank) goes on the air to assure the crowd that the ball will be fixed, but she also takes the opportunity to point out the deeper meaning of that shared event.

In the final voice-over, the film is summed up in a message of the importance of love, but this simple truth has been demonstrated in a multitude of relationships. It is a hopeful and wholesome message as we begin 2012.


» As we come to the end of the calendar year, it is natural to look back and want to do some things differently. What are you doing to prepare for the “second chance” that a new year represents?

» Though all of us agree that forgiveness is a vital need in all of our lives, this film implies that it is easy to both give and receive forgiveness. Do you find it easy to forgive? What have you found that helps you do so?

» The hope that a new year represents is based on the dates of a calendar. Do you find the change of a new year the basis to have hope? If not, on what do you base your hope?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.