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Andrew Schwartz
(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.

"NEW YEAR'S EVE" — ★★1/2 — Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher and Zac Efron; PG-13 (language, including some sexual references); in general release.

If a spectacular, star-studded cast guaranteed a great movie, New Year's Eve would automatically get four stars.

But there is a pesky little problem — you really need a cohesive plot and a clever script in order to marshal all of that talent and deliver something amazing.

Sadly, that doesn't happen here.

Director Garry Marshall has applied the same formula of 2010's "Valentine's Day," this time focused on the big New Year's gathering in Times Square.

We're introduced to a bevy of people all careening toward some New Year's Eve climactic event, a reunion, reconciliation, a lost love, a near disaster … you can pretty much fill in the blank.

Hillary Swank is producing the famous Times Square event itself, including a malfunctioning ball that is stuck and might not be repaired in time for the famous descent at midnight.

Katherine Heigl is catering one of the biggest corporate events of the night while dealing with an estranged lover, Jon Bon Jovi, who is headlining the party.

Then there's Robert De Niro lying in a hospital bed, under the care of Halle Berry, just hoping that he can see the ball drop one more time before he dies.

Add to this Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele stuck in an elevator, one hating the whole New Year's Eve thing, the other needing to get to Times Square for her big chance on stage.

But wait, we're just getting started.

Enter Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers vying for the $25,000 offered for first baby born in the New Year — all at the expense of competing couple Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger.

Sarah Jessica Parker — I think it's mandatory she appear in every New York-based film — and Abigail Breslin are going the rounds in a mother/daughter dispute over the young teen's need to be with her friends.

Ah, but is there something brewing for mom at midnight as well?

The weirdest story line includes Michelle Pfeiffer as a woman who has just quit her job and Zac Efron, who helps her fulfill a wish list of dreams before the clock strikes 12.

OK, I've seen the movie and I'm losing track of it all and the list of people and plot lines I haven't even mentioned is lengthy.

Comment on this story

Robert Altman, in movies like "The Player," has the gift to pull off incredibly complex ensemble pieces; Marshall seems only to deliver a loosely woven string of skits and bits.

That's not to say that there aren't some touching moments and that some of the bits and skits aren't entertaining — it's just that it doesn't come together … artistically.

For those who loved "Valentine's Day," you'll probably like this one.

"New Year's Eve" is rated PG-13 for language, including some sexual references; running time: 117 minutes.