Did Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer Almost Save New Year’s Eve? (and Six Other Burning Questions)

(L-r) ZAC EFRON as Paul and MICHELLE PFEIFFER as Ingrid in New Line Cinema’s romantic comedy “NEW YEAR’S EVE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo: Andrew Schwartz/? 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

It was a rough weekend at the box office, where rom-com omnibus New Year’s Eve opened to one of the weakest No. 1s in recent memory. Forget last year’s Valentine’s Day, its sorta-prequel: New Year’s Eve barely even outdrew last month’s J. Edgar! Still, we all know that this movie’s most potent afterlife will be as a basic-cable curiosity that you just can’t click away from on some Sunday afternoon, and with that in mind, we’ve got several New Year’s Eve talking points that you can either store up for then or even discuss now, in case you were one of the moviegoers who actually gave it a whirl this weekend. Beware, because soul-mate spoilers will follow!

Which pairing of type-A actress and ultra low-key musician-turned-actor was your favorite?
Your choices are (a) Katherine Heigl and an increasingly leonine Jon Bon Jovi, or (b) Hilary Swank and a confused-looking Ludacris.

Did any of the many, many plotlines actually work for you?
Because the Zac Efron–Michelle Pfeiffer story was not so awful! Yes, it was predictable, and yes, the inevitable scene where they must fight at the end of the second act before emotionally reuniting in the third … well, it made no sense. Apropos of nothing, Efron just randomly gets on a phone with his pal and calls Pfeiffer pathetic while she’s standing three feet away from him in an empty room, and then he’s all, “You weren’t supposed to hear that”? But still, the actors had appealing chemistry with each other, and Efron was the liveliest (and most disconcertingly orange) he’s been onscreen in years. When he danced in the closing credits! That is not a complete sentence, we just wanted to say “When he danced in the closing credits!” You know what we mean.

The surprise twists!
The only real source of suspense in this movie is which cast member Josh Duhamel will eventually be paired up with, since he’s traveling to New York to meet up with a mystery woman he met the New Year’s Eve prior, where this gal listened to his small talk and then put her hand on his chest, saying, “That’s all great, but how are things in here?” Which sounds like something that a crazy lady with gray fly-aways and an insistent stare might say to you at Trader Joe’s, but anyway, Duhamel is positively besotted! We must give the movie credit for appearing to set up Hilary Swank as Duhamel’s true love, then faking us out and giving us Halle Berry as the love interest, then faking us out again and revealing, nope, Sarah Jessica Parker is actually Duhamel’s intended. Although, the biggest laugh in our theater was the one where Zac Efron answers his cell phone, says, “Hey, sis,” and then it’s revealed that Parker is on the other end and is the sister in question. On what planet? (And what a missed opportunity to not do the same exact twist with Ludacris and Lea Michele.)

Let’s discuss the costumes.
Everyone was pretty normally dressed throughout this movie, buried under late-winter layers and trenchcoats. And those slinky numbers that Lea Michele and Halle Berry get into were really pretty and flattering! BUT. BUT. We must discuss that random scene where Sofia Vergara and Katherine Heigl, who have formerly been dressed in normal catering company uniforms, suddenly enter the room wearing two of the most wack dresses ever put on actresses ever. Vergara is wearing this incredibly insane blue twisty drapey thing that looks like a Rami Kashou Project Runway All-Stars challenge gone wrong, while Heigl is dressed like an interstellar silver space sausage. Adding to the oddness is the scene’s seeming superfluousness: Eventually, we were convinced that Heigl and Vergara were about to make out or get in a catfight, because the lines were just so banal and yet their energy was so weird.

We are going to tread lightly here, but let’s say you have cast a very famous actress who is often compared to a horse by message board commenters and mean Gawker writers. Let’s also say that there is a pivotal scene where a male character is waiting for this very famous actress to come around a street corner, and the movie keeps cutting to that corner, hoping to generate suspense over whether she’ll show up. And then the sound drops out … and you hear CLOP CLOP CLOP. Horse hooves. And the male character brightens, knowing that this very famous actress is on the way, and then she appears in a horse-drawn carriage, long after the audience has laughed at the idea that the sound effect of horse hooves clomping down the street has been used to telegraph this very famous actress’s scene entrance. Yeah, let’s just say that you should probably rethink that.

Can we talk about what an end-credits outtake should actually consist of?
Ashton Kutcher strolling into Lea Michele’s take while naked? Sure! Sofia Vergara blowing a line, pausing for a length of time, muttering “Shit,” and asking to go again in a room full of stone-cold total silence? No, that is not an outtake.

Wasn’t it weird …
… when Hilary Swank’s character had to step up to the microphone and quell news media concerns that the Times Square ball wouldn’t drop, and everything was hinging on the important, potentially inspirational speech she needed to make, and instead she just started going on and on about the architecture in Chechnya and ended things with “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”? That was so weird.

Did Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer Almost Save New Year’s Eve?