The power of a consumer driven holiday is frustratingly overwhelming. We’re weakened to the point that we’re willing to drop hundreds of dollars on overpriced meals, greeting cards and flowers even though a simple ‘I Love You’ would have sufficed. Not only have I conceded and bought gifts, flowers, cards and candy, but I haven been suckered into enjoying one of the most poorly made films of the year, Valentine’s Day.
Brace yourself; this is no simple plot. Ashton Kutcher is a florist who proposes to his girlfriend, Jessica Alba, on Valentine’s Day morning. He’s ecstatic and can’t wait to tell his best friends George Lopez and Jennifer Garner about the good news. She’s thrilled for him, but is more concerned with her budding relationship with a heart surgeon, Patrick Dempsey. Garner’s friend Jessica Biel isn’t having such a romantic day. She’s busy eating her loveless life away and planning her anti-Valentine’s Day dinner. In between, she’s helping her client, football player Eric Dane, deal with becoming a free agent. Her boss, Queen Latifah, is keeping an eye on the situation while her new secretary, Anne Hathaway, handles things at the office. Little does the Queen know administrative work isn’t Anne’s only gig; she moonlights as a phone sex operator. In addition to hiding her secondary job from her boss, she’s also keeping it a secret from her boyfriend of two weeks, Topher Grace. Meanwhile, Emma Roberts is planning a magical first time with her boyfriend, Carter Jenkins, and babysitting a little boy desperate to give his Valentine a dozen roses. Deep into their lengthy marriage, the kid’s grandparents, Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo, manage to run into some trouble themselves. There’s also Jamie Foxx as a sports reporter forced by his boss, Kathy Bates, to get sappy and cover the holiday and Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper on a plane. [GASP]
The two most expendable elements of this film are the two items missing from this lengthy synopsis, character names and the Taylors. Writer Abby Kohn should have saved the audience and herself some trouble, and just stuck with the actors’ names. The massive cast is the primary reason moviegoers will see this film anyway. When you’ve got such a major star like Julia Roberts, 15 minutes of screen time is just not enough to establish a sufficient rapport and make viewers forget that she’s not the actress and is the character. Another element that should have been done away with completely is the inclusion of Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift. Regardless of how popular they are, they’re not good actors. It doesn’t help that the sparse moments they’re given are downright ridiculous. Rather than get a giggle at their expense, their moments are painful to watch and will only make you blush.
At least the acting only gets better from here. Bryce Robinson has some cute look-at-me-I’m-a-love-struck-little-boy moments, but he’s no Dakota Fanning. He’s able to pull off the whole mature for his age act to a point, but the majority of his actions feel forced making him annoying. Just as irritating is Alba. A minimal character is no excuse for bad acting. If Dempsey, Grace, Latifah and Lopez are able to put on believable performances in their minimal roles, she should too.
As for the rest of the cast, their work is truly commendable. Valentine’s Day is a gigantic mess of cliché romantic dramas that only works because it’s brought to life by familiar faces and talented actors. Every time a famous face makes its debut it’s a thrill, but only a few manage to take that excitement and make it last throughout the film. The best of the bunch is Hathaway. Not only is her storyline amusing but so is she. In fact, she’s a little too good at the whole phone sex thing. The runner up is Kutcher not because he does anything spectacular or because his character is particularly intriguing, but because he’s the nicest and most likeable of the bunch.
Valentine’s Day is not a good film, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. For every cringe worthy moment there’s one that’ll make you laugh out loud. Sometimes just making a person feel good is all that’s necessary and director Gary Marshall knows it. By taking advantage of his most promising resources, the cast and the undeniable power of the holiday, he pushes the errors into near obscurity leaving us with a fun loving movie for the holiday.