Let's be real: There aren't many people in town who view "Valentine's Day" and the upcoming "New Year's Eve" as much more than a studio throwing together a bunch of celebrities in an easy ploy to make big bucks at the box office.
The films, both directed by Hollywood stalwart Garry Marshall, are set up in a similar fashion. Neither revolves around a particular character; instead, the films feature various vignettes of numerous players, all of whose story lines are vaguely connected to a popular holiday. Big-name celebrities agree to take part in the movies for a reduced fee in return for a shorter shooting schedule -- and, of course, the chance to rub elbows with some of the industry's A-listers.
2010's "Valentine's Day," with a lineup of stars that included Julia Roberts and Ashton Kutcher, received a lowly 18% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes but ultimately grossed about $110 million at the box office. "New Year's Eve," which opens Friday, seems poised to follow a similar trajectory. But the argument that the film is nothing more than a money grab bothers Marshall.
"It annoys me, because the stars come to act and people say, 'Oh, it's all those stars, they'll be cameos.' There's no cameos," the 77-year-old filmmaker said at the film's premiere in Hollywood on Monday night. "Most critics would rather see a film by a man from Tanzania -- a convict who's mute, Woody Harrelson in the woods. A snake bites him. That's a different kind of movie than I make. I make a joyous movie for the holiday so you come to have a good time."
Hilary Swank, who stars in the new film, echoed that sentiment.
"I didn't know people were cynical about it, but thanks for letting me know," she kidded. "I find it really hard to find a great supporting role. So to not only have one great supporting role, but all the supporting roles to be so fleshed out and human -- I think it's fun."
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Lea Michele, left, Katherine Heigl, Garry Marshall and Sofia Vergara at the premiere of "New Year's Eve." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images