Star-Studded Valentine's Day is Mostly Forgettable Fluff
- Friday, February 12, 2010
DVD Release Date: May 18, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: February 12, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual material and brief partial nudity)
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Run Time: 125 min.
Director: Garry Marshall
Actors: Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Topher Grace, Kathy Bates, Eric Dane, Jamie Foxx, Hector Elizondo, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, George Lopez, Carter Jenkins
Appropriately enough, watching Valentine's Day immediately brought those ubiquitous heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to mind—you know the ones where you're never quite sure what's inside until you take a bite.
In any given box there's probably only two or three really good pieces of candy, (unless we're talking Godiva, of course) but to get there, you've got to chew your way through coconut, that mysterious, raspberry-ish substance and plenty of nuts and nougat for that delicious chocolate payoff. And so goes the story of Valentine's Day, a star-studded rom-com with a couple of decent scenes surrounded by the cinematic equivalent of marshmallow cream.
It's not that a date movie has to be deep, mind you, but if filmmakers insist on borrowing from the multi-story format that worked so well in Love Actually (like the screenwriters did with varying degrees of success in last year's so-so He's Just Not That Into You), then you better make sure these storylines have real emotional impact. The movie is about love, after all.
But with so many players shuffled in—and out—of the mix, there's simply no time for feelings in Valentine's Day. Just as you start getting invested in a particular storyline, the script immediately cuts to something else, and the result is a chaotic cluster of scenes that don't work particularly well together, even if these characters are loosely interconnected.
Worse yet, is the sheer lack of insight—or originality—in a movie about love, "the only shocking act left on the planet" according to Ashton Kutcher's character, Reed Bennett, a popular L.A. florist. Surprisingly, for an act so "shocking" most of what goes down in Valentine's Day is pretty superficial, save for a surprise I won't bother ruining for potential viewers.
Serving as the makeshift anchor of the story, Reed has followed his dad's advice and just proposed to the girl who's supposedly too good for him, Morley (Jessica Alba), a workaholic who was far happier with the relationship when a diamond ring wasn't involved. Meanwhile, Reed's best gal pal who's not his girlfriend, Julia (Jennifer Garner) is a sweet teacher being romanced by a "recently divorced" man who's anything but (Patrick Dempsey). Since McDreamy is in San Francisco on Valentine's Day (doing emergency surgery, of course) and can't make plans with Julia, she decides to surprise him with an impromptu visit, something that's strikingly out of character for her.
Naturally, anyone who's seen a rom-com before knows exactly where that storyline is headed, but perhaps you'll be distracted by the myriad of other maladies in the name of love?
Not likely, but here goes....
Jason (Topher Grace) is the requisite fish out of water from the Midwest. Now living in Los Angeles, he works in a mailroom but dreams of becoming a high-powered agent instead. When he's not collating, he's in a new-ish relationship with the far more worldly-wise Liz (Anne Hathaway), a free spirit who's always on the move, which leaves Jason feeling insecure. Turns out, the reason for her regular disappearing act is her unconventional job as a phone sex operator, something that Jason doesn't necessarily approve of once he finds out.
Across town, Kara (Jessica Biel), who works as a prominent sports publicist, has a major case of the V-Day blues. Mopey, whiney and stomping around in her Louboutins because she doesn't have a beau to call her own, she hosts an "I Hate Valentine's Day" party every year and not-so-secretly fears that no one will show up.
Also on the sports beat, self-described "playa" Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) has just been assigned a feel-good, human-interest piece about Valentine's Day rather than his usual testosterone-fueled coverage, while Sean Jackson, (Eric Dane, better known as McSteamy on Grey's Anatomy) plays a star quarterback who's deciding whether or not to hang up his cleats for good.
Other subplots that get even less screen time include a young couple's (played by Julia Roberts' niece Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins) decision to lose their virginity together between classes, the disclosure of a secret affair that could potentially harm the health of a long-term marriage between Edgar and Estelle (Hector Elizando and Shirley MacLaine) and the random meeting of two strangers on a plane (Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts). And then in a healthy dose of comic relief probably meant to entice a younger audience into buying a ticket, the Taylors (Lautner and Swift, respectively) are unabashedly young in love and "ignorant of reality."
From a purely entertainment perspective, the movie has a witty quip or two and a couple of amusing moments (especially in the closing credits with a wink and a nudge to Pretty Woman, director Garry Marshall's far better rom-com), but hardly enough to sustain your interest for two hours.
Basically if the team behind Valentine's Day had trimmed the proverbial fat and allowed the audience to really connect with these stories by, well, developing them more, the possibility for long-term likeability would've been possible. However, with little in the way of sustenance or even shameless heart-tugging, it's about as satisfying as those aforementioned chocolates. Ultimately, the pleasure is momentary and utterly forgettable.
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking throughout.
Language/Profanity: Surprisingly few expletives for your typical PG-13 movie—just a couple of profanities plus frickin' stands in for its more offensive counterpart.
Sex/Nudity: There are several scenes with unmarried couples in bed in various stages of undress (usually bare-chested men and women wearing very short attire). Not much in the way of sex is actually shown, but there is plenty of talk. Dr. Copeland (Dempsey) is cheating on his wife with Julia (although she doesn't know it). Liz works as a phone sex operator to pay the bills (some of her calls play out for laughs). Grace and her boyfriend plan to lose their virginity during the lunch hour. While Alex (Carter Jenkins) is waiting for Grace to come home for lunch, he's already naked with just a guitar strategically placed. Then Grace's mother walks in the room, and as you probably guessed, the scenario didn't exactly go as planned. The couple eventually decides that it's probably too soon to have sex. Two men are involved in a homosexual relationship. Nothing graphic shown beyond an embrace in one scene.
Violence: Only of a comedic nature.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.
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