Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day
Starring:
Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel


Rated: PG-13 some sexual material and brief partial nudity
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 12, 2010 Released by: New Line Cinema

This unhurried shuffling, sitcom of a romantic comedy set in Los Angeles concerns the break-up and make-up of intersecting singles and couples based on the expectations and pressures of the titular holiday.

Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day is in some ways the more frothy, predictable Love, Actually, Hollywood style. It has two Taylors (Lautner and Swift) and two Jessicas (Alba and Biel) in it, among nearly a score of attractive thespians, including hot new prime host George Lopez mostly seen in a hooded pink sweatshirt as flower shop runner. Too bad what revolves around romance and heartbreak seems more superficial than humorous and touching.

Among the various crisscrossing narrative strands from Katherine Fugate that come across as light as a bonbon are Ashton Kutcher's flower shop proprietor Reed Bennett getting ready to propose to his girlfriend Morley (Alba). Jennifer Garner's Julia, Reed's closest chum and a teacher, is glowing as she now has a dreamboat in her life, one Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey). Newbie talent agent Josh Morris (Topher Grace) is getting to know Liz (Anne Hathaway), a receptionist, while a pupil of Julia, Edison (Bryce Robinson) looks to make a friend happy. And, his grandparents, Edgar (Hector Elizondo, a Marshall favorite) and Estelle (Shirley MacLaine) have more to talk about after a half-century together.

So, this putative date movie, a certain opening weekend draw, is certainly star-powered, but "fluff" as Kathy Bates' television boss explains what's needed to her sports (No. 2) journalist (Jamie Foxx of Law Abiding Citizen). It revolves around Reed's bustling flower shop, as the film's attempt at tension begins to arise from his angst as Julia is occupying more of her time with the handsome cardiologist ("McDreamy") Harrison.

Garner (different here than The Invention of Lying) offers a luminous presence in Julia (she gets to be a waitress) as the target audience may resonate most with her situation, while Hathaway (Get Smart, Rachel Getting Married) gets laughs from Liz's noctural duties for "Naughty Nymphos". MacLaine and Elizondo express their characters devotion to one another with some understanding to love and truth in their lifetime of a relationship.

Fugate's attempt to dovetail it all in a day in the life of love is most convoluted with the PR consultant (Biel) in chocolate heaven of crestfallen footballer (read "Brett Favre") Sean Jackson (Eric Dane) and self-professed bi-polar agent Paula (a funny Queen Latifah, who just sung at the Super Bowl). Swift and Lautner's vignette (as a funky dancer and jock) goes to show that Marshall should have reigned in the proceedings closer to the abilities of the cast he assembled. At least the scenes with Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) as a simpatico to an off-duty Army officer (Julia Roberts of Duplicity) has more of a subdued pleasure to them, as well as a nod, finally, to Marshall's smash hit Pretty Woman. More often than not, however, the hand-me-down nature of the proceedings are reflected in the scenes connected to Roberts' niece Emma, as a college-age babysitter looking to become a woman.

With such a choice ensemble (remember's last year's chatty, churningly current He's Just Not That Into You which also featured Cooper) and much attention to what their characters are feeling (and finally how they're related), Valentine's Day is definitely a heartfelt experience, but not in the manner you would expect it to be. Yes, there's plenty going on, from phone sex, two-timing, a proposal, a break-up, coming-out of the closet, a dissing dinner, along with a songwriter who bares it all out to the unintended. But, even a pretty pallid production from the lensing to the soundtrack construction, is more of an ode to a scenic City of Angels (with a bit of a tribute to a very youthful MacLaine at Hollywood's Forever Cemetary) than one that puts you in a hot spell.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Valentine's Day  C+      C-   B   C+      C+   C   C+ 

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