There are two reasons to go to a romantic comedy (or a romance in general) by yourself. One is to put your sad lonely life in perspective. The second is to find some sort of kinship in the onscreen characters, as there is bound to be some sort of character who suffers from loneliness or breakup. Sure, those reasons may sound a bit drastic, but think about it a little bit. Movies are often meant to evoke an emotional response, and these types of films, for better or worse, always manage to do so. So, if you are feeling a bit lonely, you can watch these films and gain a little perspective on your own life. It may even make you feel better. Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day is one of those films. It is also the sort of film that you will either like or not, with little middle ground.
If and when you watch Valentine's Day you have to be careful not to overdose on the high sugar content. Seriously, this movie has more than its share of syrupy sap. But is that really a bad thing? Yes, it can lead to diabetes and obesity, not to mention heart disease. However, when consumed in small doses it can be quite entertaining, as is the case here. I found this film to be rather smile-inducing and even a little bit buoyant. So what, the tale is a touch over-plotted and distinctly overstuffed with characters. It is a criss-crossing tale of discovering new love, celebrating old love, and recognizing love in its variety of forms. Beyond all that, as entirely mediocre as the film may be overall, I am so glad to find a film that is devoid of cynicism.
I recognize that this is not a particularly good film. Some may go so far as to call it terrible. I see that as a little overkill. It is a lighthearted romp meant to induce smiles more than anything serious. It is a fairy tale of sorts, with no real basis in reality. It is a star-studded affair where all of the character's have jobs that allow them to pretty much do whatever they want at any given time. Yes, it is all pretty ridiculous.
The plot is a labyrinth of interweaving stories as characters fall into and out of love and discover the truths they have known all the while. Garry Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate have created a story that loops, swirls, and folds back on itself while never allowing us into the personal stories. Instead of making a film to involve the viewer, they've made one to dazzle us with surface schmaltz and star power. Love, Actually it is not, nor should you hope for that. This is just a the sort of movie to distract you for a couple of hours and send you away with a smile.
To attempt a plot description would be a futile exercise. It involves a number of couples going through the throes of romance. The characters include a lovesick florist (Ashton Kutcher), his best friend (Jennifer Garner), and her boyfriend (Patrick Dempsey) and friend (Jessica Biel), and a sportscaster (Jamie Foxx). There is also a pair of stars on a plane who strike up a friendly conversation (Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts) while a fifth grader (Bryce Robinson) tries to impress his first crush. As you can see, there is a lot going on and we haven't even gotten to Queen Latifah, Topher Grace, Ann Hathaway, Eric Dane, Jessica Alba, Hector Elizondo, Shirley Maclaine, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift, or Taylor Lautner. Phew. I am exhausted just typing that.
Bottomline. The performances are generally fine. Or course, none of them have all that much screen time for a bad performance to really become an issue. The screenplay does what it needs to do without getting too deep while the direction keeps it moving along. It is zippy, upbeat, and dare I say fun? No, not likely to be remembered, but for the short term it made me smile.