Sunday, July 17, 2011

Film review: Valentine's Day (2010)

When is having too many stars a bad thing? When you try to cram twenty-one of them into a two hour movie with various plot lines that criss-cross, intersect, and diverge multiple times over.

Valentine's Day, which was released on Valentine's weekend in 2010, was that for me. We watched it last night On-Demand because my wife had wanted to see it. By the end we both agreed that we were glad we had not spent money to see it in the theatres. It wasn't horrible but it just wasn't that great. With all that star power, you'd expect great.

The entire film takes place during a single day, Valentine's Day. A Los Angeles florist (Ashton Kutcher) who works with a good buddy (George Lopez) has just proposed to his girl friend (Jessica Alba). The florist's other good friend (Jennifer Garner), who is a teacher, is dating a doctor (Patrick Dempsey) who is more than he seems. One of the teacher's students (Bryce Robinson) who lives with his grandparents (Hector Elizondo and Shirely MacClaine) goes to the florist with a special request. The student's after-school sitter (Emma Roberts) is planning to lose her virginity with her boyfriend (Carter Jenkins); this is encouraged by their two close friends and classmates, also a couple (Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift). A sports reporter (Jamie Fox) is assigned to do a fluff Valentine's day piece by his boss (Kathy Bates) and instead finds romance with a publicist (Jessica Biel) and a great football story to boot (Eric Dane). Also, the football player's agent (Queen Latifah) hires a new receptionist (Anne Hathaway) who has a secret she's trying to keep from her new boyfriend (Topher Grace). A soldier (Julia Roberts) on her way home strikes up a conversation with the man (Bradley Cooper) next to her on the plane.

Follow all that?

That's just the set-ups, people. The plots get complicated as the stories cross-over a lot.

Now, I'm a big fan of romantic comedy films. I like a lot of these stars and found some of the stories interesting. Fleshed out, a few of these stories could have made for good movies on their own.

My big problem was that there were too many stories.

It was like someone took the classic 1970's show Love, American Style, which I remember watching fondly in its original run, and decided to go for a full-blown film. Given that legendary Garry Marshall produced the film (he was one of the writers/producers on that show) I think this is exactly what they were going for.

Love, American Style typically had one or two stories that fit into the half hour show. Valentine's Day tries to drop so many into the film and jumps around so much between them that each one barely gets a full fifteen minutes apiece. You just don't develop any vested interest in the characters because of all of the jumping about.

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