It usually means one of two things when I cease taking notes during a movie. Either I’m (hopefully) completely caught up in what’s going on or, as was the case with Valentine’s Day, everything that is happening makes so little sense and just seems thrown up (possibly literally) on the screen with such slap-dash effort that I've given up entirely on trying to keep track of what’s going on.
Garry Marshall has managed to direct some fun films in the past. Even if some of them weren’t great, at least they were serviceable and silly enough to keep the jokes strung along. But from the man who brought us The Flamingo Kid, Nothing in Common, Overboard, Beaches, and Pretty Woman also came a downhill slide: Frankie & Johnny, Exit to Eden, Dear God, The Other Sister, Runaway Bride, and Georgia Rule. Not even re-teaming with Julia Roberts could save him then nor now.
Screenwriter, Katherine Fugate is no help here. With her past writing credits including the first two Prince & Me films, an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess and two episodes of Max Steel, one can’t help but wonder who thought she was the perfect person to take over sole writing duties. The so-called story is credited also to the team behind He’s Just Not That Into You and Never Been Kissed. While those two movies are just as fluffy as this one thinks it is, Valentine’s Day receives the kiss of death from celebrity overload and Garry Marshall’s pulverizing directing.
As far as any kind of plot, let’s see… Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) has just asked his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) to marry him. While Morley may have said yes, Reed’s best friend Julia Fitzpatrick (Jennifer Garner) still fears for the worst even though she is living a delusional relationship with the man of her dreams, Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey), who, surprise surprise, is married. Meanwhile, flying over the United States, Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) wakes up on the shoulder of Holden (Bradley Cooper) who seems to have a bone to pick with anything love-related.
Also in the mix here we get nanny Grace (Emma Roberts) who just wants to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend which is explained to numerous groups of people including her best friend Felicia (Taylor Swift) and her boyfriend Willy (Taylor Lautner), a school teacher, Ms. Gilroy (Kristen Schaal) and the grandparents of the boy (Edison, played by Bryce Robinson) for whom she is a nanny, Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle (Shirley MacLaine).
Not to mention yet more subplots involving Jason (Topher Grace) just wanting to make it clear to the girl he’s been dating for two weeks, Liz (Anne Hathaway), that he’s willing to try things longer if she is. Liz moonlights and also tries to mix her day job along with being a phone sex operator. Liz is temping for sports agent Paula Thomas (Queen Latifah) who’s also Kara Monahan’s (Jessica Biel) boss. Kara hates Valentine’s Day along with number 2 sports caster Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) who has just been assigned a man-on-the-street beat by his boss Susan (Kathy Bates) to find out why the day is so important.
So much more happens that you seem to completely lose any kind of focus on any of the subplots that actually work and are the most interesting. These would be the meet-cute between Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper, who coincidentally have the most chemistry yet the least screentime (possibly ten whole minutes in a two hour slugathon); the Liz and Jason misadventures, and even the relationship between Reed and Julia which is strictly forbidden from venturing beyond the time honored tradition of miscommunication.
When you think of light and fluffy tween-geared rom-coms the last person that pops into your head to make a movie would be someone in their 70s. I doubt anyone would assume their grandpa remembers what it was like to be a teen in love, let alone be allowed to make a movie about it using hammers and nails to drive home the wackiness.
As if people don’t complain enough about this so-called “holiday” being nothing but commercialism at its worst, here comes a movie that everyone apparently indulged in grossing a whopping $66.8 million over Presidents Day weekend. In case anyone didn’t receive enough sugar from their sugars, here’s your chance for a film that’s so sickly sweet it just may induce diabetic comas nationwide. Bon appetit, America!
Photo courtesy New Line Cinema