With tomorrow's 'holiday' nearly upon us, what more suitable movie to mirror our annual celebration of love and consumerism? Valentine's Day, the day, is no longer simply a hymn to romance; it seems to have morphed into a heart-shaped, pink, gooey lovefest, which pretty well describes "Valentine's Day" the movie. Were I asked to name films which manage to make us feel blessed to have found love or to praise its joy, a number spring to mind, but I'm afraid that this tacky concoction would be right at the bottom of the barrel.
The director Garry Marshall has produced some memorable film and television work in his long career, but he seems to have lost his touch with this portmanteau movie. I believe the film did well on its opening weekend with audiences being attracted by its galaxy of 'stars'. In alphabetical order the cast includes Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo (normally Marshall's good-luck charm), Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, her aunt Julia Roberts, and a bunch of other names that I recognize but which don't mean much to me. Well "scottie-wottie-doo-dah-day" as I used to say when totally underwhelmed. None of the cast are given much in the way of screen time, so their interlocking stories rapidly degenerate into a seen-it-before morass, leaving the viewer with a bloated, unimaginative, and uninspired mess.
The main focus is on busy florist Kutcher who chooses the morning of the 14th to propose to his popsy Alba, who then dumps him (and takes off with his dog). His best friend Garner is madly in 'lurve' with the deceitful married Dempsey. It needn't take two hours for us to figure out that Kutcher and Garner are really meant for each other. The other tales involve Emma R hoping to lose her virginity with her long time squeeze during school lunch hour, Hathaway moonlighting as a telephone sex worker, MacLaine and Elizondo as a long-married and mutually dependent pair of oldies, Valentine's Day-hating Biel throwing her annual bash for for other sceptics, and Julia R meeting seat-mate Cooper on a long-distance flight en route to a mysterious assignation. This last storyline created the only 'ooh-ah' of the plot, and no, it wasn't about a cougar finding some action. The rest of the ho-hum bits of business are too uninteresting to even mention. So, very little in the way of innovation here and certainly nearly nothing in the way of humour. The only bit of business which even mildly amused me was seeing high school athlete Lautner too shy to remove his shirt for a television reporter, after his muscle-flexing, buff rise to fame in the "Twilight" movies.
While it may not be one of the great romantic movies of all time, the British film "Love Actually" (2003) dealt with its eclectic mix of love affairs more entertainingly. Its success should have killed off this vehicle for a bunch of overpriced actors at the planning stage or at least inspired the film's writers to higher heights. No such luck!