- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
alentine’s Day” is a magic trick of a movie; you’ll be dazzled by its tricks and surprises as they happen, only to realize later that you were in fact baffled by bullshit. For as many moving parts as it has, it does a good job getting all of the characters to intersect – think of it as “Crash, with Love” – but the characters don’t do anything that you haven’t seen a dozen times before.
The entire movie takes place on one Valentine’s Day. Reed (Ashton Kutcher) runs a flower shop. He proposes to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) first thing in the morning. Reed’s best friend Julia (Jennifer Garner) is dating a doctor named Harrison (Patrick Dempsey)…a married doctor named Harrison. Grace (Emma Roberts) plans on losing her virginity to boyfriend Alex (Carter Jenkins) during lunch break, and makes sure the world knows it. Football player Sean Jackson (Eric Dane) is facing an unplanned retirement, and both his agent (Queen Latifah) and publicist (Jessica Biel) are freaking out. The agent’s mail boy Jason (Topher Grace) spent the night with sexy office temp Liz (Anne Hathaway), but doesn’t know about her far more interesting second job. Holden (Bradley Cooper) and Kate (Julia Roberts) share a long flight home from… somewhere. I’m not sure where, exactly. And there are seven other main characters that I haven’t mentioned yet. Whew.
And that is the movie’s problem. The movies that reach for the stars are also the ones that need to be the most grounded, and “Valentine’s Day” gets lost in the clouds on more than one occasion. People board planes but never fly anywhere. People track down their valentines in places they had no idea they would be. Reed’s store has a line out the door, yet none of the customers complain and all of the employees are whistling “Dixie” on the busiest day of the year. George Lopez’ character appears to be a delivery driver for Reed, yet he has this beautiful house, wife and children, thus proving the “It’s Complicated” rule that as long as your priorities are in the right place, you’ll have plenty of money.
If only that were all that doesn’t add up, but alas, it’s not. (Remember, the movie has a cast of thousands.) What teenage girl tells one of her teachers (!) and the grandparents of the boy she’s babysitting about her plans to lose her virginity? Why were Liz’s work calls coming through on the company phone lines during the day? Wouldn’t she make a point of directing all of those to her cell? Of course she would, but if this doesn’t happen, then we lose the big laugh at movie’s end. Now laugh, damn it, even though the joke is fatally flawed. This is a mistake the story makes over and over, where encounters and conversations only exist to move another piece of the story forward. By themselves, they’re pointless or illogical. And don’t get me started on the restaurant that Jason and Liz go to, where the patrons sitting on the bench are trapped on all sides.
There are a few individual performances that rise above the chaos around them. Ashton Kutcher is slowly figuring out this acting thing, giving Reed a subtlety that he’s never shown before. Taylor Swift is a stitch as the pretty/vacant Felicia, while the ridiculously versatile Anne Hathaway (is there anything she can’t do?) steals the movie as the double-life Liz. Jennifer Garner has her best role since “13 Going on 30” as the sweet-as-pie Julia. To be fair, no one here really does a poor job; the other characters just aren’t defined enough for them to make much of an impression, most notably Jamie Foxx’s newscaster and Dane’s football player.
If the execution matched its ambition (or star power), “Valentine’s Day” would be the best romantic comedy ever made. As it is, it’s a noble attempt at making the rom-com equivalent of an Event Movie, but the story relies too much on misdirection to stand on its own.