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February 12, 2010
Review - " Valentine's Day "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Valentine's Day
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Starring: Everyone in Hollywood that ever was - or ever considered
being in - a romantic comedy.

Everyone could use a little fluff in their lives now and again, even
hardened, cynical, no-nonsense movie critics who have had it up to
here with chintzy romcoms.  Okay, maybe that doesn't exactly describe
me. I LOVE romantic comedies. I practically live for them. But even the
kind of people who would normally find a certain level of loathing in a
film like "Valentine's Day" will likely find yourself not only enjoying
yourself but fully engrossed in most of the characters splashed on the
screen. Then again, maybe not.

The movie, which opened today, takes place on V-Day in Los Angeles
and uses a faux radio personality to set the scene and the mood. It’s
early morning in the city of angels, and the opening montage features
life-affirming scenes likes mommies jogging and gardeners rushing to
their posh, domestic destinations. As the city wakes up for the day of
love, a young, good-looking guy living on the L.A. canals psyches
himself up to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Reed’s (Ashton Kutcher)
adorable, awkward proposal speech is met by a lukewarm response
from Morley (Jessica Alba, as a blonde) - which sets the stage for
euphoria and curve balls on one of modern society’s cruelest days.

It doesn’t do much good to run down the entire synopsis of
"Valentine's Day".  It would take at least two pages just to cover all the
major anchors in the story.  Let’s just say it takes place in one day,
Valentine’s Day, and it follows a myriad of characters as they attempt
to find their own sense of happiness on this day where everyone
has been led to believe they should find their one true love. Certain story lines such as Eric Dane’s NFL quarterback who
may be receiving a forced retirement and Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts as strangers who meet on a flight receive short
thrift.  Other story lines like Ashton Kutcher’s florist with the girlfriend, played by Jessica Alba, everyone knows is way out of
his league seem to meander and hang around far too long. And others such as an adorably vapid highschool twosome
(country-pop princess Taylor Swift and lycanthropic heartbreaker Taylor Lautner) go absolutely nowhere.

Other segments featuring Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Emma Roberts, and Queen Latifah
weave in and out. Fortunately, though, the onslaught of left and right plot points also become the film’s saving grace.  Most
of the characters are, to a certain extent, likable and filled by equally likable actors.  If, for some reason, you don’t like a
certain segment of the film, you can basque in the belief that, at any given moment, we are mere second from moving on to a
completely different story line.

Much of the pairings here work from the shear
presence of chemistry between the actors.  
Elizondo & Maclaine, Cooper & Roberts, and
Biel & Foxx in particular seem to have a
connection that goes beyond the individuals
giving decent performances.  Say what you will
about Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift or the
performances they give here. They made a
cute couple, they made me laugh, and they
both looked good doing it.

The film offers a certain amount of genuine
surprises, too.  Dane’s story line, in particular,
has not one but two twists throughout its
course that caught me by surprise.  The
segment with Elizondo and Maclaine holds a rather daring reveal, even if the outcome is strictly Hollywood, and I say that in
more ways than one. I was especially entertained by Elizondo & MacLaine going to an outdoor movie and what was playing
but an old 1050's Shirley MacLaine flick. They even worked that into the story line. I saw the ending to Bradley Cooper's
story arc coming a long way off - most people in the audience didn't, they gasped at the big reveal, but I said "Yup - just what
I thought". The end to Julia Robert's story actually made me cry (And I didn't see it coming).

"Valentine’s Day" is Garry Marshall’s latest ode to our impenetrable, cultural belief in fairy tale romance, even in the confines
of everyday life. To his credit, director Marshall juggles the many overlapping story lines successfully, though "Valentine's
Day" is obviously strained by the excess. Marshall is a funny man who has, in a long career, made some excellent movies
("The Princess Bride") and some lamentable ones ("Runaway Bride").  He directs "Valentine's Day" with all the subtlety of a
Cupid’s arrow straight to the forehead. The screenplay by Katherine Fugate, working from a story by her, Abby Kohn and
Marc Silverstein, has obvious similarity to 2004's "Love, Actually" but little of the wit.

Like a box of candy with about six too many layers, "Valentine’s Day" is anything but nuanced.  It’s obvious, Hollywood fluff
that acts as a match maker without a single, creative arrow in its quiver.  If you’re looking for the same thing and a whole lot
more inventive and, overall, better, see "Love, Actually".  However, despite all of its drawbacks, there is a gleam in "Valentine’
s Day" eye that can neither be doubted nor denied.  Anyone who puts down their hard-earned money to see this film are
going to get precisely what they bargained for, and, sometimes, that’s enough to warrant a recommendation.  If you have any
doubts, stay far, far away, but, if you’re a forgiving movie goer who wants a little schmaltz with their flowers, you could pick far
less appealing stems than this. "Valentine's Day" is exactly what it professes to be: an overdose of sentimentality.
Moviegoers comfortable ignoring the calculated ploy of "Valentine's Day" will likely enjoy its easy predictability and general
Similar to "Love, Actually" not all the story
lines end happily (although most do) and
even the happy ones don't necessarily have
the 'happily ever after' the characters
imagined or wanted. The film's magic,
though, is that it almost never sinks under
its own weight or confuses critical mass with
quality storytelling. The combined deftness
and savvy of Marshall, Fugate and their
all-star cast makes it OK to indulge in a
cheesy, seasonal package. Even more
appealing, though, is that as their combined
efforts allows us to soak up the film’s magic,
it also encourages us to believe - even if for
just 117 minutes in the dark - that the real
thing is really is possible, no matter what day
of the year it may be.