Monday, February 15, 2010

Movie Review: Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day **
Directed By:
Garry Marshall.
Written By: Katherine Fugate & Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein.
Starring: Jessica Alba (Morley Clarkson), Kathy Bates (Susan), Jessica Biel (Kara Monahan), Bradley Cooper (Holden), Eric Dane (Sean Jackson), Patrick Dempsey (Dr. Harrison Copeland), Hector Elizondo (Edgar), Jamie Foxx (Kelvin Moore), Jennifer Garner (Julia Fitzpatrick), Topher Grace (Jason), Anne Hathaway (Liz), Carter Jenkins (Alex), Ashton Kutcher (Reed Bennett), Queen Latifah (Paula Thomas), Taylor Lautner (Willy), George Lopez (Alphonso), Shirley MacLaine (Estelle), Emma Roberts (Grace), Julia Roberts (Captain Kate Hazeltine), Bryce Robinson (Edison), Taylor Swift (Felicia).

There are not many movies that can boast a cast like Valentine’s Day. There are 4 Oscar Winners, and another 2 nominees, some of the biggest stars from television, and up and coming stars of movies and music. Everywhere you look in the movie, there is a famous face. Even those roles, that only have one line, are filled with faces that you will at least recognize. There is so much talent on screen, you could be forgiven in thinking that Valentine’s Day would be a can’t miss film. But actors can only as good the material they are provided - and the screenplay for this movie just isn’t very good.

There are many stories colliding in this movie - all over the course of one day. Jessica Alba is a driven career woman, who has just said yes to her boyfriend Ashton Kutcher when he proposed. Meanwhile Kutcher’s friend Jennifer Garner seems to have finally found in the man of her dreams in Patrick Dempsey, and has a student for her fourth grade class, Bryce Robinson, who is in love with her and bought flowers from Kutcher, who spends the day talking about love with George Lopez. Robinson’s babysitter is Emma Roberts, who is planning on having sex for the first time with her boyfriend Carter Jenkins, while their best friends Taylor Laughtner and Taylor Swift are the typical over the top in love teenagers. Robinson’s grandparents, Hector Elizondo and Shirley Maclaine are having the first crisis in their long marriage. Meanwhile Jessica Biel, who is the friend of Garner, is having a I Hate Valentines Days party, while trying to deal with her biggest client, Eric Dane, a football player who is under pressure to retire, but has other things on his mind, which is what reporter Jamie Foxx really wants to cover, although his boss Kathy Bates has assigned him a fluff piece. Dane’s agent is Queen Latifah, who is driven by her work, and has an assistant in Anne Hathaway who is a phone sex worker, and has just started to date the straight laced Topher Grace. Meanwhile Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts are stuck on a long flight back to LA (where the rest of the characters are), and although we don’t know how they tie in with everyone else, we know that at some point, they are going to have to.

Movies like this are not uncommon. Roger Ebert calls them hyperlink movies, I guess because no matter what character you “click” on, you get connected to lots of others. Thinking of just movies like this set in LA, you can come up with films like Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Paul Haggis’ Crash and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. Altman specialized in these types of films, and did them better than anyone else. Of course, all of those films had something more serious than love on their minds, but they all do something that Valentine’s Day does not - and that is sustain momentum and interest. No matter what story those films where on at any given moment, you were enthralled and involved in them. Not so with Valentine’s Day.

I can’t really blame the cast of the movie. With the exception of Jessica Alba, who is the least convincing career obsessed woman I have seen in a movie in recent memory, they all do what is expected of them. I particularly enjoyed (surprisingly) Ashton Kutcher who has the right kind of charm and ease that works well here. I also liked Anne Hathaway, who does a series of accents on her phone sex calls, and although I don’t think she’s much of an actress, Taylor Swift was a hoot as the teenager completely in love, and lugging around a giant teddy bear for almost the entire movie. The rest of the cast is fine.

The film is directed by Garry Marshall, who has made a career of making these types of movies - feel good romantic comedies. I’m sure that some people will enjoy the movie. It’s hard to complain about it for a date movie. But is it a satisfying movie going experience? For me, it wasn’t.

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