Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Garry Marshall

Cast: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, Taylor Swift

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual material and brief partial nudity)

Running Time: 2:05

Release Date: 2/12/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day is a completely innocuous ensemble romantic comedy that takes the familiar route of showing how a group of seemingly unrelated people is connected in their individual quests for love. There's nothing new or refreshing about the movie, but there's also nothing overly annoying or painful about its abundance of generic characters in common situations brought together by the ultimate Hallmark holiday (It's not important to the movie itself, but it is amusing to note the cynicism of basing the marketing of a cookie-cutter romantic comedy by releasing it for a holiday that is all about marketing).

The idea, again, is that Los Angeles (and hence the world) is a small place, where strangers are just best friends you have yet to meet, loved ones are actually people about which you know very little, and that contradiction is irrelevant because all you need is love. Also, Valentine's Day (from here on out shortened to "VD," because I don't feel like typing it out as much as it will need to be (and don't care too much in general)) is in each and every one of us.

For some in this contrived world, VD causes pain. For others, it merely annoys. Still, VD gives some folks a warm, tingly sensation. No matter what the reaction, when VD hits, it's on everyone's mind. It is, according to the movie, the great uniter.

The interconnected residents of Los Angeles under VD's spell include Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba, who have just gotten engaged to the surprise of all of his friends. Kutcher runs a local boutique, which is booming with customers on this busiest of romantic days, and Alba does something professional. We know this because she falls asleep with her cell phone in her hand and calls to confirm her morning meeting after Kutcher proposes.

Kutcher is friends with Jennifer Garner, a grade school teacher. Garner has started dating heart surgeon Patrick Dempsey, who's leaving town for a big surgery. She wants to share VD with him, but this VD is sure to surprise the doctor's wife. Needless to say, with Alba being all professionally enigmatic and Dempsey the philandering jerk-face, we're expecting the best friends to have VD together.

One of Garner's students is Edison (Bryce Robinson), who used to make cards with mom commemorating VD, but she isn't home anymore. Grandma and Grandpa (Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo) watch after him now, and Gramps tries his best to explain to young Edison how VD can be an opportunity to finally tell that special girl how he feels.

Edison's babysitter is Grace (Emma Roberts), who's planning to have sex with her boyfriend (Carter Jenkins) for the first time for VD. While the beau is at Grace's house preparing for the big moment, her mom comes home to see him practicing guitar while naked. That's never a good situation, VD or not.

Grace is friends with dance-centric student Taylor Swift, who's crazy in love with Taylor Lautner, the school's track star. He says he's embarrassed to take his shirt off, which is just funny if you saw a certain vampire/werewolf/mopey-girl movie recently.

Also running around being all interconnected are Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway, co-workers who hook up. The next day, Grace realizes, whoops, it's VD. Hathaway moonlights as a phone sex operator, which is a booming business for lonely guys to vicariously feel something related to VD. Their boss is Queen Latifah, an agent for football superstar Eric Dane (so wooden, I thought he was an actual sports figure trying his hand at acting), whose business manager is Jessica Biel, who has a VD-hating party and is friends with Garner, who meets Jamie Foxx's sports reporter at her party, after he's spent the day running around interviewing people about the joys and disappointments of VD.

Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper are on a plane, which is probably an awkward place to be during VD, and they do fit into all this interrelation, as does George Lopez, who works for Kutcher and shares his VD with his wife, happy on a swing-set (sounds like a commercial).

Forcing all these people into situations involving VD gets tiresome, and we don't get to know them more than their cynical, joyful, or bittersweet experiences with VD. The cast in general is likeable, and director Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate hit expectations on the nose. This makes Valentine's Day tolerable but forgettable, irritating but not painful.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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