After the success of last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You, New Line Cinema attempted to repeat the formula this year with another star-studded romantic comedy tied to a Valentine’s Day release. The resulting film, the unimaginatively titled Valentine’s Day, featured an even bigger roster of stars and proved an even bigger hit at the box office. It probably didn’t hurt that its cast included not only ms. romcom queen herself, Julia Roberts, but all the heirs to her big-hearted, wide-mouthed throne, including Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba and, most disconcertingly of all, Emma Roberts, the niece Hollywood keeps trying to convince us has the same appeal as her famous aunt (she doesn’t). Creatively, the film’s a bust. While He’s Just Not That Into You dared to ponder a question or two about the nature of romance in the digital age, this vacuous mess doesn’t have a single idea in its head. All it has are characters; a giant candy box of flavorless, forgettable characters. More after the jump:
The closest thing the film has to a protagonist is a nice guy florist played by antic pretty boy Ashton Kutcher, who, in the film’s opening scene, proposes to his girlfriend (Jessica Alba). A darker – and likely more entertaining – version of this ode to the twenty-four hour commercialization of love would have opened with a failed marriage proposal. Instead, the movie embraces its shamelessly saccharine quality right up front by having Alba say yes and sending the elated Kutcher off to spend the rest of his day delivering flowers to half the movie’s interconnected web of Los Angeles-based characters, each of whom is experiencing some state of blossoming or withering romance.
There’s the lovely Jennifer Garner – falling in love on-screen for about the fiftieth time this year – as an elementary school teacher having an affair with Hollywood’s favorite typecast physician, Patrick Dempsey; Julia Roberts, refreshingly glammed down as an Army officer flying home from Iraq to visit the mystery man of her life alongside Bradley Cooper, also flying home to visit the mystery, um, person in his life; a totally hot and totally miscast Jessica Biel as a neurotic publicist prepping for her annual I-Hate-Valentine’s-Day party (I’m not buying it); Jamie Foxx as a V-Day-averse newscaster Biel eventually hooks up with; Shirley MacLaine and Garry Marshall-muse Hector Elizondo as a couple celebrating love in the twilight years; and, speaking of twilight, there’s a wildly irritating and undisciplined debut performance from Taylor Swift as a high school ditz in love with Twilight’s Taylor Lautner (one wishes Kanye would bust on screen and interrupt the proceedings).
Who am I forgetting? Oh yeah, Anne Hathaway, who after this and the execrable Bride Wars is kind of killing any street cred she gained from last year’s Rachel Getting Married. Here, she plays an aspiring writer moonlighting as a phone sex operator. The role gives the actress a chance to get all Streep-y and experiment with accents, but it’s weird to think of Garry Marshall, her one time Princess Diaries director, encouraging his former “Princess” to talk dirty.
Other than Swift, no one in the cast really embarrasses themselves, but no one really flourishes either. That said, it’s hard to fault them for signing on to this sinking love boat since its captain, director Garry Marshall, has helmed some of the most successful mainstream comedies in American film history, including Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries and the comfort food classic Overboard. The problem is that both director and cast are stuck working with a woefully underdeveloped script that features few, if any, three dimensional characters.
There’s a threat that a sequel to this film called New Year’s Eve is already in the works. Apparently, a portion of the film’s cast will return along with Marshall back behind the camera. My New Year’s Eve wish is that they have a smarter script next go round. The viewing public deserves it, especially after making this box of chocolate-covered poops an undeserved hit.
I’m not a huge fan of the film’s red and pink palette, but the 1080p High Def picture is certainly eye popping. Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital (dubbed in Quebec) and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English SDH, French and Spanish.
Whether you love or hate the movie, there’s no denying that its director, Garry Marshall, is a showstopper. His large-than-life personality is all over the film’s extras. Not only does he provide amusing intros to the film’s fourteen deleted scenes, he also narrates a feature length commentary in which he points out every single family member, friend and softball teammate he put in the film. Additional bonus features include a blooper reel, an “exclusive” sneak peek at Sex and the City 2 and a DVD and digital copy of the movie for playback on your iphone, etc..
If you enjoy red carpet shows, you might get a kick out of this film’s parade of Hollywood stars. Otherwise, you’re better off making a date with smarter L.A.-based romantic comedies like last year’s 500 Days of Summer, L.A. Story or even Marshall’s hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold-and-no-STDs comedy classic Pretty Woman.
Valentine’s Day is rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity. It has a run time of 125 minutes.