Feb 2010 12

Valentine’s Day” talks a big game, as it stars a lot of well known actors. Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts, George Lopez, Patrick Dempsey, Kathy Bates, Taylor Lautner, Anne Hathaway, and Topher Grace are amongst the celebrity cast. There seems to be enough stars in the film to where everyone can find at least one reason to see it. But can packing a movie with well known actors produce a respectable final result? Maybe.

Love comes in many different shapes, sizes, and stories in “Valentines Day.” The movie starts with one of the central characters, Reed (Ashton Kutcher), waking up next to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba). As if we haven’t seen this one before, Reed opens a tiny jewelry box – only to reveal a diamond ring. As he moves over to her side of the bed, he gets down on one knee and proposes to her as she wakes. The answer is in his favor, and love is in the air as the movie begins. As he leaves to meet his friend Alphonso (George Lopez), he is sure to let everyone know the big news. In the movie, Ashton Kutcher’s character is a true romantic – rather than some of the more unlikable roles that he has portrayed in the past. This makes for a much more likable experience as he spends a lot of time on screen. Reed tells Alphonso that since it is Valentine’s Day, he has an excuse to be romantic and sentimental. As their flower delivery van drives away to deliver ‘love’ across Los Angeles, we begin to discover more characters and stories that all are supposed to connect in one way or another.

The concept of the film, while not worn out, has been seen and executed successfully many times in recent cinematic history. Probably the best example, and most enjoyable, would be in “Love Actually.” For those who have seen that film, many of the stories and characters will feel familiar. On the other hand, the reason that this movie will probably work so well is that many moviegoers will not have seen it prior to their trip to the theater. It is apparent that “Valentines Day” is trying to be that movie, but with a larger cast that will get more people to see it. The problem is that it falls short on it’s goal to often, many times due to the short amount of time that is taken to develop the characters. With a cast of over 20 starring roles, it is understandable that it would be hard to spend a lot of time on each. But throughout the film, a few minutes sometimes seem like an eternity, as time is spent on characters that didn’t need to exist – but did, only to attach another name to the project. If they would have cut out some of the characters, like the high school sweethearts played by Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift, the movie could have moved a little more smoothly. But then you would lose a lot of the teenage audience. So it would seem that the goal of the movie was to capture every demographic possible, rather than make a solid film. Which is too bad, because it had a lot of potential to be great – rather than just a good ‘date night’ movie.

The acting in the film was good, as you would hope it to be with all of the star-power it contains. Many of the actors did have good chemistry together, like: Ashton Kutcher and George Lopez, Julia Roberts with Bradley Cooper, Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine, and Jamie Foxx with Jessica Biel. Eric Dane’s story kept more to himself, but he did a great job playing a seasoned quarterback who is contemplating his retirement. I liked Topher Grace’s performance, but the story between his character and Ann Hathaway’s just didn’t do either of them justice.

Overall, “Valentine’s Day” will make a great date movie. It has an all-star cast, and is full of enough quirky stories to entertain most audiences. While the movie is fun and enjoyable to sit through, I am not sure of how long its shelf life will be. By stretching the running time to be long enough to fit in all of the characters, it missed out on making many of the stories truly great.

“Valentine’s Day” is a C.


Another take from Zac:

Valentine’s Day is a bunch of good actors, looking pretty, and doing decent work in paint by numbers plot and unimaginative entry into the rom-com genre; whose formula has been done much better in a few films still fresh in the memory.

Now, this film is bound to bring in the bank for a number of reasons; lots of big name stars, appropriately timed release over the romantic holiday weekend, and its familiar plot lines a plenty being peddled in the film’s trailer.  Now beyond this surface assessment people can make from the trailer and the poster, the film will gel with audiences once in the theaters because it offers up plenty of comfort food for the average viewer in a multitude of so obviously planned elements it is almost laughable.  This is how I imagine some of the production meeting going on this film:

“Hey, Slumdog Millionaire is a huge hit, let’s set a big scene in an Indian restaurant and have some Indian people dance; everybody loves that. Or how bout we have a character that is like Brett Farve and can’t decide whether to come back or retire; everyone loves Brett Farve and make sure we get that guy from Grey’s Anatomy, in fact get both of those McWhatever guys on this thing.  Oh and lets make sure we hire a bunch of hot young actresses and make them run around in skimpy outfits in bed to open the film so guys that are dragged her feel like the trip was worth it.  Oh wait, we forgot about the Hispanic and African American populatio – quick, cast George Lopez, Queen Latifah, and Jaime Foxx to appeal to them.  And make sure we have a couple of good friends who are actually perfect for each other in the movie.  Oh, and a cheating husband who is sleeping with another one of the characters. Wait, what about the tweens, get Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift on the phone.  Oh man, what about the baby boomers, is Julia Roberts available?  The Hangover was a hit, get B.C., on the line.  Also, we should have an “I hate Valentine’s Day” party in there to appeal to people who don’t like the holiday.  Oh and we need a cute little kid, get the casting director on that.  And everyone should be connected through a flower shop in some way so everyone crosses paths with one another.  Did we cover everyone? Wait, the old people crowd, get me Shirley MacLaine!

Now, this might sound like the best movie ever to a lot of people, but the thought process behind it is just kind of sad at the end of the day.  Sure the movie was entertaining most of the time and had a couple of laughs, but it felt like the day should be over when it was only three o’clock or so in the film; that is a lot of Valentine’s Day left.  And nothing happens that you don’t see coming, (well one surprise couple at then end did catch me off guard and had a lot of audience members groaning; ah, American intolerance), every twist and turn is predictable and we have seen it a million times over.  The biggest crime is that the movie basically rips off Love Actually on almost every level but that film at least had surprises and gave an honest and varied interpretation of love; almost everyone ends up happy in this one.  The Paris and New York, I Love You films also both offer superior looks at love in an ensemble capacity with just as much star power and far superior filmmaking.  So yeah, you might enjoy Valentine’s Day, but its not going to do anything new or original and you will forget it almost as soon as it’s over (kind of like the real, fake holiday).

The actors at least all show up and do fine enough work, with all of them of the understanding of exactly what they are getting into and just having fun in their roles that allow for it.  The stand outs in the picture start with Anne Hathaway, who gets the juicy stuff as a part time phone sex operator. She offers up a fairly one note, yet successful, set of laughs.  Jamie Foxx is also quite good with a number of good one liners when he is on screen, though he sadly appears too little.  Hector Elizondo was also very likable as one half of the “old couple” and got to interact with a number of the films players.  Kristen Schaal also made me laugh in her one-bit part, always have to shout out for her.

In the end, Valentine’s Day is an uninspired and completely contrived piece of cinema that is trying to appeal to everyone while overwhelming no one.  The film is watchable, entertaining at times, and even funny here and there, but it does drag about a third of the way in never fully recovers.  If you know what you are getting into, you will have a fine enough time, but there are so many better pictures out there that have so much more to say and give on the topic of love, that you shouldn’t bother spending your time with this one if you really don’t want too.  But if big actors and clichéd plot lines are your fancy, step right up to the plate with this one. Just don’t expect anything revolutionary.

Valentine’s Day is a C-

 

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