Friday, February 12, 2010

Film Review – Valentine’s Day

Writer: Katherine Fugate
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Queen Latifah, Carter Jenkins, George Lopez, Kathy Bates
Romantic comedy, 125 minutes

The multi-plot film was a specialty of Robert Altman's, and has shown up recently with films such as Paul Haggis’ Crash, and Babel. But somehow or other, the romcom folks got a hold of it. As a result, we had films like Love, Actually and He’s Just Not That into You. Just in time for the big day itself, Valentine’s Day takes another crack at that approach.

To give the film a boost, director Garry Marshall went all out with the casting. He hired a number of Oscar-winners: Jamie Foxx, Kathy Bates, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts, whom he also directed in Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride. For good measure, he adds Oscar-nominated Anne Hathaway and Queen Latifah. Bradley Cooper makes the jump from He’s Just Not That into You. Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace from “That 70s Show” are thrown in, as are “McDreamy” and “McSteamy” (Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane) from “Grey’s Anatomy.” Marshall adds George Lopez and rounds out the cast with some young eye-candy: Emma Roberts (Julia’s niece), Carter Jenkins, two Jessicas (Alba and Biel), and two Taylors (Swift and Lautner).

What does it all add up to? Sadly, not all that much. Most of the various story lines are pretty predictable or don’t go anywhere (even before the movie started, I accurately predicted that one character or story would turn out gay). The most interesting and complex is the thread involving Jennifer Garner, and she has one terrific scene. Anne Hathaway is another standout, and she comes pretty close to stealing the movie. And there are some good laughs from Queen Latifah and Jamie Foxx in their respective stories.

But that’s about it. All those Oscar-heavyweights as well the very fine Topher Grace, Emma Roberts are wasted. The film is more cutesy than actually funny. And at a running time of 125 minutes, it feels like it should have shed some of the threads. The thing with the two Taylors was pointless, and on top of that Taylor Swift’s Valley Girl schtick was lame and embarrassing. Another thread with a young boy (played by Bryce Robinson) took forever to get where it was going. He was cute, but again his acting was atrocious. As usual, it’s a very white-bread vision of L.A. Don’t think I didn’t notice that there was only one miniscule Asian role and he was clearly a North American-born actor trying to sound like an immigrant because of the stereotypical “bad-Engrish” dialogue. Ironically, the result is that all the white people start to look the same after a while. My guest at the screening (who is Caucasian) even had trouble telling apart several of the scruffy, bearded men.

Still, it’s not the worst thing you’ll see this year. It shows off Los Angeles very nicely, revealing little-seen but appealing corners of the city. I suppose it has a little something for everyone (except Asians, of course). And the end credit bloopers are pretty good.

Rating: 2 / 5

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