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Author: JoAnne Hyde
February 11, 2010

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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: An all-star ensemble cast comes together in VALENTINE'S DAY, which follows the intertwining storylines of a diverse group of Los Angelenos as they navigate their way through romance and heartbreak over the course of one Valentine's Day. Couples and singles experience the pinnacles and pitfalls of finding, keeping or ending relationships in a day in the life of love.

DIRECTED BY: Gary Marshall
WRITTEN BY: Katherine Fugate
CAST: Ensemble

What do giant teddy bears, guitars, chubby Indian men in turbans, and hurdles have in common? Each is used for a cheap sight gag in the sprawling film VALENTINE‘S DAY. Oh, I feel so used. I looked forward to this film thinking it would be made along the lines of some of Gary Marshall’s other films, like PRETTY WOMAN or THE PRINCESS DIARIES. All I wanted was a little true romance – after all, the title is VALENTINE‘S DAY! Glancing at the A-list, enormous cast, I had high hopes. Enormous cast . . . I think that may be one of the biggest problems with the film. Too many story lines; not enough character development.

About 30 minutes into the film, my sister, who accompanied me to the preview, whispered, “What’s wrong with this movie?” Up until that point, I had thought it was just me being too impatient or cynical. But then I realized that “what was wrong” with the movie is that it’s a thirty-minute sit-com stretched out to almost two hours. Or maybe it’s more like watching the DVD of a sit-com’s entire season in one sitting. Mr. Marshall’s television roots are showing. As in a sit-com, Marshall has delivered a series of one-liners punctuated with sight gags, which gives the film a rambling, disjointed feel. The pace of the film at the beginning is too slow, and the DJ voice-over frame is unappealing. It made me long for the “Hollywood” street person from PRETTY WOMAN – “Everybody’s got a dream. What’s your dream?” He provided a much better frame for the “fairy tale”. Even with Taylor Swift’s song “Today Was a Fairytale”, this film does not feel like one.

Speaking of Taylor Swift – acting is not her strong point. She should definitely stick to music. She’s adorable, but her performance is quite amateurish and gawky. Another sour note is George Lopez whose timing seems off. For someone who makes his living as a comedian, he allows too much lag time in dialogue. Which brings me to the rest of the cast. The actors are among the most appealing stars of film and television, but they are given little to work with to produce cohesive performances. Too many “couples” – loosely tied together by very tenuous circumstances – create a hodge-podge of sub-plots. The characters fall into predictable patterns: boy loses girl, boy gets better girl; girl gets married lover, comes to her senses, and falls for best “guy” friend; infidelity rocks married couple but love overcomes all; boy discovers girl’s seedy job, dumps her, but overcomes prejudices to see the “real” person; work-a-holic girl gets work-a-holic guy (but we know it won’t last); newly out-of-the-closet hot gay guy gets other hot gay guy. And two wonderful actresses, Queen Latifah and Kathy Bates, don’t get anybody! Kathy Bates, by the way, does a great job with her one minute of screen time. Hector Elizando and Shirley McClaine put on their games faces, but they lack chemistry as a couple, and the script didn’t give them much to build on.

The point is that you’ve seen it all before – and done better! The cast is, however, stunningly beautiful. The camera particularly loves Bradley Cooper and Taylor Lautner. Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, the aforementioned Cooper and Lautner, Aston Kutcher, Topher Grace, Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane (McDreamy and McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy) - there are so many that I lose track! I enjoyed the pleasure of their company, but somewhere along the way, good looks stopped being enough to keep me interested. Although the pace of the film improved toward the end, over-all it lacked the “warm, fuzzy” feeling that I’m sure was intended. And just in case you missed all the pacing problems and confusing sub-plots and felt warm and fuzzy anyway, the “three little words” that the voice-over DJ says at the end will slap you back into reality forthwith. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: C- on Facebook

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