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Overall Rating

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Worth A Look: 22.58%
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Pretty Bad: 29.03%
Total Crap48.39%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Valentine's Day
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by Erik Childress

"Twisting The Knife For Good Into The Day"
1 stars

A leading candidate for one of the worst films of the year, Valentine's Day also features a screenplay by Katherine Fugate that could also very well figure into 2019's worst of the decade. The running joke of the film between those of us who have had to sit through every multi-character mash-up from Crash to 200 Cigarettes is that Valentine's Day makes (blank) seem like Short Cuts. The (blank) could routinely start with last year's mediocre He's Just Not That Into You, but the longer the film would go on it was just as easy to replace Short Cuts with Magnolia and fill in the blank with something as abhorrently goofy as Powder Blue. Why not Love Actually, you ask? Because to compare Valentine's Day to Richard Curtis' wonderfully funny and moving examination of realized crushes and heartbreak is like offering you a choice between a date with Lloyd Dobler or a Peterson. Scott or Drew, take your pick.

The story, more or less, begins with a proposal. Reed (Ashton Kutcher) puts on a ring on girlfriend Morley's finger to open the morning of Valentine's Day in Los Angeles. She says yes, much to the surprise of apparently everyone Reed knows. They include his co-worker, happily married Alphonso (George Lopez) and his best friend, Julia (Jennifer Garner). She is smitten with her hunky doctor boyfriend, Harrison (McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey), unbeknownst that he is actually married with child. Julia's good friend, Kara (Jessica Biel) is hosting her annual I Hate Valentine's Day party, a staple amongst women who look like Jessica Biel. She is also a publicist to an aging NFL quarterback, Sean Jackson (McSteamy himself, Eric Dane) who is considering retirement. His manager is Paula (Queen Latifah). Her receptionist is Liz (Anne Hathaway) who has moved from the friend zone to the bed zone with mailroom guy, Jason (Topher Grace), and just happens to hold a side job as a phone sex fetish specialist. Still with me? Cause there's more.

Over on a plane on its way to L.A. is Holden (Bradley Cooper) who is seated next to Kate (Julia Roberts), an Army captain on a weekend pass. Their conversation consists of him telling her how lucky the guy waiting for her must be and Kate doing a Sherlock Holmes into his commitment issues. Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) is a second tier sports reporter forced by his producer (Kathy Bates) to do a human interest piece on the Hallmark holiday. In Julia's class is young Edison (Bryce Robinson) who has ordered some flowers for someone at school. He is living with Grandpa Edgar (Hector Elizondo) who is about to renew his vows with love of his life, Estelle (Shirley MacLaine). Edison's babysitter, Grace (Emma Roberts) has decided to lose her virginity at lunchtime with dippy boyfriend, Alex (Carter Jenkins). Meanwhile, high school cheerleader Felicia (Taylor Swift) has decided to stay on the bleachers with hunky jock boyfriend, Willy (Taylor Lautner) and postpone sexual activity. For her, just being with him makes her day.

You might be wondering how any film short of three hours could possibly juggle so many characters and provide them with enough momentum in their individual storylines for us to possibly care about their outcome. Valentine's Day runs just over two hours and, if nothing else, definitively answers at least that question. It is not that we don't know who we are supposed to root for, but just because that aspect is so succinctly black and white doesn't mean that anyone but the attractive whiteys are allowed to participate in Cupid's games. Not that Love Actually was a rainbow of racial diversity - it was set in Britain for God's sake - and we have come to expect the fairer skin to dominate the search for love in mainstream Hollywood fare, but to offer no perspective whatsoever on the balance of white-to-color or pretty-to-plain makes us begin to hate many of these people rather quickly.

The storyline with the most screen time involves Kutcher's Reed and Garner's Julia, a friendship we know almost immediately is destined for something more. The trick of the script is how to get them there now that we have been introduced to their committed relationships. Dempsey's cheater is an easy mark, allowing a chance meeting with Reed to offer him the knowledge that Julia doesn't have. Does he allow Julia to fly to San Francisco and embarrass herself? Would she listen anyway? Without any edges to smooth, Julia's journey consists of denying the obvious, delivering a harsh personal opinion on her best friend's relationship then ignoring his more truthful knowledge about hers, hopping a plane from L.A. to San Fran at the end of a school day, apparently hopping off (which we never see), discovering the worst, causing a scene in one restaurant, wielding a bat in another and making it back presumably by midnight to wrap things up with Reed. And if I told you in the middle of all of this, Alba's commitment-phobic placeholder of a character winds up walking the streets by the end, would you believe me?

This is a contrast between the film's primary sense of focus and the utter denial in providing the majority of its characters with a plausible arc or a meaning to exist other to fill some cliche quota. Other than the film's minorities, who are either happily married or too busy with their careers to care, there is no hope for the great whites to go through anything but the three motions of introduction, conflict/mystery and final talk/resolution. Chalking up what is the most ridiculous of the big reveals is one for the listmakers. The most unbelievable without question is the hunky QB calling a press conference to make an announcement so unprecedented that it actually deadens the disbelief in the aftermath that follows. Would a sportscaster not be fired on the spot for the joke-laden commentary he offers in the end about it? Isn't the very reason for the declaration a moot point considering the person is directed at can't possibly be aware of it? Much like Garner's presumed plane exit, director Garry Marshall provides no context to the object of the QB's affection and just gives us the payoff without the foreplay.

Speaking of which, would you be so offended if you were dating a woman who looked like Anne Hathaway and she turned out to make ends meet by talking dirty over the phone? It's a self-policing cliche that guys on film and TV have to be outraged when their lady turns out to be a stripper. But even that you can understand a little with all the intimate touching and rubbing. Hathaway's Liz is not getting half-naked nor giving the full girlfriend experience to strange men. It's a bit questionable that her service appears to involve no upfront payment - she just picks up the phone and goes right into it (even at work) - but further so that neither Jason nor, say someone at Liz's neighboring cubicle, wouldn't be privy to the fact that office clients don't often demand to be whipped.

Shouldn't we be more outraged that Reed steals the spotlight from his Asian floral competitor or that another business would allow Julia to create a scene on one of their busiest evenings; in essence tearing apart a family over petty revenge? And remember these are the two we're supposed to give the biggest damn about. Kutcher and Garner do their best to create some chemistry, but she is written as such a selfish idiot that we're left to contemplate if we're witnessing Ashton give the best male performance in the film. The best on the female side, amidst all this talent and pretty faces, actually turns out to be Taylor Swift. As she displayed already on Saturday Night Live, she has a terrific comic presence and isn't afraid to make a competent twit out of herself. Her character is the only one that lives up to the satire of the gushing behaviorial antics we're co-opted into experiencing on the year's symbolic day of romance. Swift's interview with a news reporter is one of the three good laughs in the entire film. The others involve an off-camera throwaway with a customer's accent and a connection between the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the Chicago Cubs.

Unless you are the kind of person willing to spend ten bucks at the theater and double that for the DVD for a series of "awwwwwwww" moments, might I recommend just staying home and renting one of the Puppy Bowls. There is not a single situation in Valentine's Day that deserves one of those "awwwww"'s. Not any of the twists to the characters' connections. Not one cutaway to a dog reaction. Not a single gift exchanged. Less than socially acceptable attractive people need not apply. Fatties are annoying goofs. Don't ask, don't tell becomes an understatement. Mentally challenged people can only look on while characters like Alex come off as truly retarded in the kind of farcical satire that only Sarah Palin can appreciate (since she doesn't understand the meaning of the word.) Suffer even the poor children while the young Edison's search for love is an exercise in misdirection with nary the poignant lessons learned from a widowed father nor the heart-tugging sincerity from Liam Neeson and Thomas Sangster in Love Actually. If that film or a Puppy Bowl is out of your reach this Valentine's Day, may I offer another suggestion. Just wander the streets, restaurants and bars alone. You will discover an entire world of more genuine human interaction, some potential drama, lots of flowers, a few kisses, maybe even a proposal. Bring a handheld video camera and film it for two hours and you will have created a more viable pastiche of emotional necessity than in this junk.

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originally posted: 02/12/10 16:00:00
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User Comments

6/17/12 ady boy Does Jessica Biel really have an acting career? How. 2 stars
11/07/10 Will Russell Emotional porn. 2 stars
7/04/10 puddleduck A mishmash of badness that even Julie Roberts can save 1 stars
6/04/10 gc A romantic comedy that is niether funny nor romantic. And Taylor Swift CANNOT act 1 stars
5/23/10 Justin Didn't meet my expectations, but was far better than your grammar & spelling. 4 stars
2/15/10 Eric Peter, 4 stars seems excessive for a movie that basically succeeds at not being horrible. 2 stars
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  12-Feb-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-May-2010


  DVD: 18-May-2010

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