With a flashy ensemble cast pulled from the pages of celebrity gossip magazines, Valentine’s Day is more cheese and chore than candy and confection. A convoluted string of interweaving stories scripted to reach out and touch not someone, but everyone.
There is the unrealistically enthusiastic young man who gets a “yes” response after an awkward wedding proposal, followed by the inevitable second thoughts and change of heart from the bride-to-be. Best friends who never considered intimate relations until traveling to hell and back in their own fantastical love lives. An anti-Valentine’s Day sportscaster and celebrity publicist pulled together by their shared hatred for those who set aside their career ambitions for love. A high-profile athlete saddled with a life-altering decision. Fresh out of college interns whose fling reveals a divide in lifestyles and ideals. And a nervous military captain returning home finding comfort and love from a stranger with unexpected motives.
The Twilight and under crowd will relate to a couple of high school virgins plotting to steal each others virginity. A ditz and a jock with raging hormones and no grasp of reality. And, because no ensemble romantic comedy is complete without one, the requisite cute little boy entranced by a heart-pounding crush way over his head.
Older folks get their chocolates, too. A supervisor hides her loneliness behind a mask of intimidation. Two venerable aging love birds cope with a revelation that shakes the foundation of their longstanding marriage while a father shows his much younger supervisor what true love and commitment is all about.
Even if the circumstances are far-fetched, chances are you can indirectly relate to at least one of those stories which is what the essence of Valentine’s Day is all about; job well done to rom-com whiz Gary Marshall in that respect.
What Valentine’s Day is not about is reaching its potential. How can you possibly get the most out of Ashton Kutcher, Patrick Dempsey, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Hector Elizondo, Topher Grace, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, Carter Jenkins, Queen Latifah, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine and Emma Roberts when they have to divvy up two hours of movie between them? Poor Queen Latifah barely gets a minute on-screen yet has the funniest line of anyone. Her agent needed to negotiate another 120 seconds.
Marshall wildly jumping around between stories only exacerbates problems. One minute Jennifer Garner is flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco to surprise her boyfriend while he’s working. After cutting away to follow someone else and returning, she’s back in Los Angeles having found her boyfriend at a restaurant there – all in the same afternoon. How does that work, and where can I learn this incredible skill?
Deserving of props are Taylor Lautner for his willingness to blatantly mock himself and country crooner Taylor Swift for taking a stab at acting which is clearly not her strong suit. She might as well start dusting off a spot next to all those Grammy Awards for a 2010 Razzie win.
A couple funny zingers and neatly tied touching payoffs make Valentine’s Day hard to hate, but cramming in as much plot and talent as humanly possible levels the emotional impact and humor making it hard to love. Its romantic warriors are exaggerated caricatures of real people and will be long forgotten after the next big romantic comedy comes down the pipe. Thankfully for the ladies, the flowery holiday will keep living on.
– Dan Bradley