No love for "Valentine's Day"

Feb. 16, 2010, 10:22 a.m. | By Mandy Xu | 14 years, 4 months ago

A showy all star cast renders underwhelming love stories

Heavy advertising for this romantic film began extremely early in the fall of 2009. The trailer features 2009's feel-good anthem "I've Gotta Feeling" as well as more than fifteen A-list celebrities, ranging from romantic-comedy veterans Julia Roberts and Queen Latifah to rising stars Taylor Lautner and Emma Roberts. Sadly, the hype amounts to nothing but hot air. The overlapping sub-plots are poor substitutes for genuine quality. Unfortunately, all the talented stars are washed out in a loveless plot and make for forgettable characters.

Frankly, it's a chore to even try to untangle and elaborate on the so called "story line", since this film severely lacks an admirable plot. "Valentine's Day” tells the tales of intertwining couples in Los Angeles who experience love and heartbreak on the romantic holiday in February. Ashton Kutcher's character Reed Bennett, a local florist, kicks of this spaghetti mess of a film. Bennett proposes to his long-term girlfriend Morely Clarkson (Jessica Alba) and begins Valentine's Day jubilantly. At the same time, Jaime Foxx's cynical character Kelvin Moore spends Valentine's Day interviewing couples and keeping the plot moving. Along the way, a second Jessica, two Taylors, two Roberts and three fabulous veteran actors – Kathy Bates, Shirley Maclaine, and Hector Elizondo- make appearances.

Valentine's Day has the feel of an extended "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) episode with multiple guest hosts and an extra dose of "lovey-dovery” segments. The scenes are loosely connected and appear to stem from very different sketch concepts. In addition, the multiple celebrities fight for screen time in this two hour feature. As soon as a character becomes interesting and likable, the camera cuts to the next one. This direction is frustratingly juvenile, considering there aren't many likable characters in the first place. Where is the Garry Marshall who directed the legendary film "Pretty Woman"?

Valentine's Day is a lackluster version of the witty British film "Love, Actually" which proves that loosely connected storylines can be charming if they are executed seamlessly. The 2003 film featured British heavyweights Hugh Grant, Keira Knightly, Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. "Love, Actually" features a sensational screenplay and actors who smoothly become their respective characters. "Valentine's Day" tries in vain to mimic this film by, coincidentally, taking place on a holiday, weaving multiple storylines and having similar movie posters. "Valentine's Day" fails to capture the painful human moments that made "Love, Actually" a classic.

With mediocre direction and screenplay, the movie leans on the cast's performance for support. It's unfortunate that the talented actors portrayed one dimensional characters. It seems more that the characters were based off of the actors instead of the other way around. The A-list actors did not receive the screen time proportional to their talent. The lovely Julia Roberts and the charismatic Anne Hathaway deserved more while newcomers like Taylor Swift had five too many scenes. Hopefully, this will be Swift's first and last movie performance. The talented singer and songwriter ought to stick with winning Grammies instead of Razzies.

For a saccharine, gooey and pink-out film experience, see "Valentine's Day". For those who want a quality romantic comedy, rent "Love, Actually."

"Valentine's Day" is rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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