Set in Los Angeles, the new romantic comedy Valentine’s Day has originality and memorable scenarios which cross societal plains and many personal lives. The film utilizes real location shots instead of movie sets to capture a surprising realism within the story, so star-struck audiences can look past each celebrity’s persona and identify with their respective characters.
Director Garry Marshall helms an all-star cast with appealing comedy and romance and nothing too dramatic. Besides obvious romantic and relationship themes, the story contains some admirable lessons on friend accountability and family support. All these scenarios contain a fair amount of predictability, but audiences can relish some satisfying developments along the way.
Ashton Kutcher’s character Reed Bennett, a floral shop owner, encounters the most characters throughout his well-intentioned activities, which include a budding relationship with a long time friend. Reed presents a sympathetic character, though an encounter in his floral shop implies a contradiction. Reed confronts infidelity face to face with the offender, but only after he knows the victim. Ideally, audiences would see Reed honorably defend an unknown victim or even refuse to serve the offending customer. Comedian George Lopez plays Reed’s co-worker Alphonso while Garry Marshall regular Larry Miller, who plays an airport employee, has a short, memorable scene with Reed.
Jessica Biel initially impresses as the busy Kara Monahan, a sports publicist currently representing star quarterback Sean Jackson, played by Eric Dane. Oscar winners include Kathy Bates and Jamie Foxx, who actually play television news colleagues, plus Julia Roberts as Kate and Shirley MacLaine as Estelle. MacLaine’s screen time with Hector Elizondo, who plays her husband Edgar, plays close to her real persona.
Future Oscar winner Jennifer Garner plays Julia while Jessica Alba plays Morley. Bradley Cooper headlines the male cast along with Patrick Dempsey who plays – surprise – a doctor. Topher Grace and Taylor Lautner round out the cast of male suitors as Anne Hathaway and country star Taylor Swift match with them respectively. Newcomer Carter Jenkins gets the most embarrassing scene as Alex, a young man testing the relationship waters with his girlfriend Grace, played by Emma Roberts. Youngsters Megan Suri and Bryce Robinson, who plays Edison, also impress in surprisingly large roles.
Screenwriter/producer Katherine Fugate blends the story and characters together with help from romantic vet scribes Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. It’s not a case where singular subplots feels disjointed within the overall scope. The high profile stars don’t have to say, “Well, at least my story was good.”
The eclectic music soundtrack ranges from classics by Nate King Cole and Ben E. King to recent works by Maroon 5, Joss Stone, and co-star Taylor Swift. The subtle musical score from John Debney mixes nicely within the film, which is greatly enhanced by the clear, glowing cinematography by Charles Minsky.
This superstar romantic comedy might draw inescapable comparisons to other romantic comedies, especially the British superstar counterpart Love Actually, but the entertainment value sustains throughout the entire 125-minute running time and the resulting drama feels real.
Recommended with a few reservations and rated PG-13 for sexual material and brief partial nudity.