Overstuffed with stars
If this Hallmark card of a film didn't already make it clear, the beefy bodies of "Valentine's Day" does: This is a movie aimed squarely at women and, one supposes, their unfortunate dates.
The star-studded, plainly named film begs for puns. Should we expect a "Flag Day" sequel? But then again, this is a year that will see a movie simply called and simply about "Babies." Moviegoers comfortable with ignoring the calculated ploy of "Valentine's Day" will likely enjoy its easy predictability and general cheerfulness.
Set in Los Angeles, the film begins with the baritone voice of a "DJ Romeo Midnight" announcing that in honor of Valentine's Day, he's going to play "the songs you love and the songs you love to love to." He barley spins a winner the rest of the movie, but, then again, the aphrodisiacs are in the cast.
We have Ashton Kutcher as a pink-clad florist, paired with his reluctant fiance, played by Jessica Alba. Jennifer Garner, a teacher, is matched with a cheating Patrick Dempsey. Anne Hathaway, paying the bills as a phone sex operator, is falling for Topher Grace.
Teen love is represented in the pairs of Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins, and Lautner and Taylor Swift, making her feature film debut as a bouncy airhead. Our elderly couple is Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo. We also get a little puppy love in a 5th grader played by Bryce Robinson.
Our freelancers include Jamie Foxx as a cynical sports reporter, Kathy Bates as his boss, Eric Dane as a Brett Favre-esque retiring quarterback, Queen Latifah as his agent, Jennifer Biel as his publicist, George Lopez as a happily married man (whose wife is the only one virtually left out of the movie's pairings), Bradley Cooper as a jet-set businessman, and his airliner seatmate Julia Roberts, absurdly playing an Army captain on leave of duty.
Many of these luminaries will — not unlike real-life Hollywood — play musical chairs on one fateful Valentine's Day. Cynicism will be defeated and love will triumph. Teenage sex will be treated fearfully. The kindness of airline workers will be relied on to fathom the importance of a dramatic moment. But — gasp! — who is our unlikely homosexual couple?
To say that "Valentine's Day" is overstuffed would be an understatement. Not only does it ooze stars like clowns spilling out of a clown car, but it's gauzily wrapped in roses and red-and-white cards.
To his credit, director Garry 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 beloved movies ("Pretty Woman") and some lamentable ones ("Runaway Bride").
The screenplay by Katherine Fugate, working from a story by her, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, has obvious similarity to 2003's "Love Actually" but little of the wit. Most successful is the chemistry between Grace and Hathaway, but with so many swings, that's a pretty low batting average.
"Valentine's Day" is exactly what it professes to be: an overdose of sentimentality. You certainly can't mistake it, as one confused 5th grader in the film does, for anything related to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. But the reference is enough to make you wish for "Scarface," or, if love is still on the menu, "Some Like It Hot."
"Valentine's Day," a New Line release, is rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity. Running time: 121 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.