Jessica Alba as Morley Clarkson
Kathy Bates as Susan
Jessica Biel as Kara Monahan
Bradley Cooper as Holden
Eric Dane as Sean Jackson
Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Harrison Copeland
Hector Elizondo as Edgar
Jamie Foxx as Kelvin Moore
Jennifer Garner as Julia Fitzpatrick
Topher Grace as Jason
Anne Hathaway as Liz
Carter Jenkins as Alex
Ashton Kutcher as Reed Bennett
Queen Latifah as Paula Thomas
Taylor Lautner as Willy
George Lopez as Alphonso
Shirley MacLaine as Estelle
Emma Roberts as Grace
Julia Roberts as Captain Kate Hazeltine
Bryce Robinson as Edison
Taylor Swift as Felicia
Matthew Walker as Greg Gilkins
Larry Miller as Oversized Baggage Agent
Directed by Garry Marshall
In trying to make his version of “Love Actually,” Gary Marshall instead ends up with something on par with the worst bits in “Love American Style.”
It’s Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles and a diverse array of individuals are experiencing the pleasures and pitfalls of love. Florist Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) has proposed to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) while his friend Julia (Jennifer Garner) is trying to figure out a way to spend time with her new doctor boyfriend (Patrick Dempsey). A mailroom clerk (Topher Grace) wants to spend Valentine’s Day with his new girlfriend (Anne Hathway), who has a big secret, while a young boy named Edison (Bryce Robinson) wants to get flowers to express his love for his secret crush.
While I feel the need to express a caveat that I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day, nor am I particularly a fan of Los Angeles, even going into Gary Marshall’s romantic anthology with the lowest of expectations will not prepare anyone for the corny amount of fluff that’s thrown at the viewer over the course of two hours.
Much of the story revolves around Ashton Kutcher’s flower store owner who is characteristically busy on the holiday. Much to the surprise of his friends, he’s proposed to his girlfriend, played by Jessica Alba, though she doesn’t seem too thrilled with the idea. We join other couples in their post-coital bliss and are quickly drawn into nearly a half dozen high concept storylines maybe a few too many, and we won’t try to explain all of the connections between the disparate characters because it’s likely to make anyone’s head hurt trying to figure out how many coincidences would be involved for all of the characters to run into each other.
The storyline that probably comes closest to being able to sustain its own movie is the one that brings together the likeable pairing of Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace, but Hathaway’s talents seem to be wasted on such a small role, which essentially gives her a chance to play with lots of funny accents as a phone sex worker. (She’s come a long way since Marshall discovered her for “The Princess Diaries”!) Even so, the strongest scenes are those between Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts, two people who meet on a plane, but it’s also the segment that seemingly has the least purpose or connection to the other stories. Similarly, there’s a running subplot with Eric Dane as a football player with a secret that doesn’t seem to have any place in the movie except to tie together some of the other disparate characters like Queen Latifah and Kathy Bates, both of whom are wasted on smaller satellite roles. Jamie Foxx isn’t bad as a sports reporter forced to do a fluff piece on the holiday, but he’s one of the characters who just doesn’t have a very strong arc which is generally par for the course as many actors who have done at least passably better romantic comedies seem to be slumming it, not for a pay check, but just for the chance to work with Marshall. It makes you wonder why a great actress in her twilight years like Shirley MacLaine would waste any time on a part that essentially has one great scene.
Oddly, the only actor who comes out the other end of this movie fairly unscathed is Emma Roberts as a teenager planning to give up her virginity to her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day; there’s something that feels honest in the innocence of her performance. Young Bryce Robertson isn’t bad either although his subplot of a young boy with a crush is overtly stolen from “Love Actually.”
Otherwise, any attempts at laughs are botched badly by actors who have yet to realize that comedy isn’t their strong suit, yet they’re each given at least one truly dreadful and embarrassing moment where they go out of their way to get laughs out of preposterous behavior, whether it’s Jessica Biel running on a treadmill or Jennifer Garner attacking a heart-shaped piñata. Because these scenes aren’t funny and thereby fail to add humor, they are unnecessary. The worst example of this comes in the form of the Terribly Talentless Taylor Twins, Lautner and Swift, and thank heavens they broke up before we might ever be subjected to another movie with both of them. Lautner’s attempt at self-parody is weak–the guy has only been in two “Twilight” movies!–and Swift is actually a worse actress than she is a singer. Who knows what Marshall was thinking casting them and giving them possibly one of the dumbest scenes to ever make it into a final cut of a movie? As hard as it must have been to find such a diverse group of actors who could play shallow L.A. types, those scenes mentioned almost guarantees this film’s title to be proceeded by the words “And the Razzie Award for Worst Ensemble Cast goes to…” at this time next year.
It’s especially surprising that “Valentine’s Day” is from the same director who debuted with “Young Doctors in Love,” which is still funnier than anything in “Valentine’s Day.” Here, Marshall always goes for the most obvious laughs just as he always goes with the most mundane L.A. locations possible as background.
There are just too many storylines and characters who pop in and out, never around long enough to leave much of an impression or make much of an impact, some of them, like Foxx, being forgotten in the sloppy way the whole thing is thrown together. There are some good moments but they’re few and far between compared to the inanely unfunny comedy bits, and by the time all the stories start being pulled together at the end, it’s just too damn late. Few of the characters are strong enough to justify even spending a little bit of time with them and less than half the stories are resolved in a satisfying way by the film’s overbearing need for everyone to have a happy ending.
The Bottom Line:
Vapid and embarrassing to everyone involved (as well as insulting to any viewer with half a brain), it’s as if any potential for depth or intelligence in this romantic comedy has been sucked out by the very holiday the film attempts to glorify. The two hours watching this movie was no fairy tale.