Valentine’s Day * *

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Director:  Garry Marshall

Writer: Katherine Fugate

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jessica Alba, Eric Dane, Hector Elizondo

Running Length: 125 minutes

Synopsis: About 20 different characters populate the various stories that are told in this movie, set (of course) on Valentine’s Day and in the city of Los Angeles. The central storyline revolves around Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher), a florist, who has just proposed to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba), who unfortunately has commitment issues. His best buddy Julia (Jennifer Garner) has hidden away her romantic feelings for Reed, and instead is involved with a philandering doctor, Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey). Separately, TV sports news reporter Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) has been tasked to do man-in-the-street segments on love for Valentine’s Day, but is a cynic and doesn’t believe in love. However, he is suddenly presented with a potential love interest in the form of Kara Monahan (Jessica Biel), who is the agent for star quarterback Sean Jackson (Eric Dane). Sean seems to be troubled by more than the fact that his football contract is ending, and decides to call a press conference to announce exactly why.

Other tales abound: two strangers on a plane (Bradley Cooper and Julia Robert) manage to make a connection during a 14-hour flight; an old, happily married couple’s (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine) marriage suddenly doesn’t seem quite as happy to one of them when a secret is revealed; a secretary (Anne Hathaway) who is also working as an “adult phone entertainer” finds that her side job is interfering with the budding relationship she has with her boyfriend (Topher Grace); two young couples (Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift, and Carter Jenkins and Emma Roberts) contemplate the possibility of engaging in pre-marital sex before their high school graduation; and a young boy (Bryce Robinson) has to deal with his first crush in school. (Phew.)

Review: It’s a huge morass of interconnected plot lines and characters, all revolving around the theme of love. However, the one biggest failing of Valentine’s Day is how little comedy and romance there is in this supposed rom-com. Many of the storylines are not even given a decent amount of screentime, and are so perfunctory that they almost seem like a desperate attempt to up the star wattage of the movie to pull in more moviegoers. It doesn’t help that the central storyline is so boring and uninspired that the film sags every time these so-called central characters are featured.

There are a few stories that show more potential – the airplane story works because Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts are immensely likeable in their roles and display some chemistry (which is sadly not the case in most of the other pairings), and Anne Hathaway has an absolute ball with her “adult phone entertainer” role and hams it up to the max, although the actual romantic development with this storyline is somewhat lacking. And then there’s the “surprise!” subplot that would potentially blindside some audiences – although it didn’t manage to “fool” this jaded moviegoer. Sadly, these storylines are not given enough time to fully develop, and it can get vexing when so much time is wasted on other inconsequential subplots, or worse, the insipid central plot. Valentine’s Day is a movie that would have benefitted immensely from some restraint and editing.

It’s interesting to see how Garry Marshall managed to somewhat drop the ball on this project. It’s a formula that has been done before (see Love, Actually for a far better take on the same theme), and Garry Marshall had practically made his name exclusively in this genre. Whilst Valentine’s Day is not a bad movie, too much of the film feels tired and uninteresting. The few bright spots and funny moments are unable to outweigh the flotsam and jetsam that make up the rest of the movie. The number of stars involved will probably still ensure this is a commercial success, helped somewhat by the fact that this is the only love-related movie released over this Valentine’s Day long weekend, but if you really want a romance fix this holiday period, why not try renting Love, Actually instead?

Rating: ** (out of four stars)

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