by Rick Grant
If ever a film exemplified commercial exploitation of a holiday, this is it. Directed by Gary Marshall, the premise is reminiscent of Neil Simon’s California Suite, in which various vignettes involved guests staying at the Beverly Hill’s Hotel. Likewise, in this story, a legion of big name actors star in vignettes revolving around Valentine’s Day.
The stories have farcical elements and romantic paradoxes, with predictable results. However, I can’t write this formulaic work as completely unworthy of viewing. It fulfills the date night market and the actors do their jobs well.
It’s Valentine’s Day, the biggest day of the year for LA flower shop-owner Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher), who has just proposed to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) and he is ecstatic that she said yes.
Reed’s best friend Julia (Jennifer Garner) has found her Mr. Right, Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey), who, not surprisingly, turns out to be married. (natch!) Talent agent in training Josh Morris (Topher Grace) has had his first sleep-over date with receptionist Liz (Anne Hathaway) and is smitten. High school romance is in the air with hot throbs Willy (Taylor Lautner) and Felicia (Taylor Swift).
Ten year-old Edison (Bryce Robinson) has a wicked crush on his teacher Julia and wants to send her flowers for Valentine’s Day. Edison grandparents, Estelle (Shirley MacLaine) and Edgar (Hector Elizondo) are taking care of the love smitten lad while his mother is away.
The first part of the film is taken up with character development, then the romantic interludes begin with various paradoxes happening that lead to unexpected pairings. Viewers will not be shocked by the outcome of these romantic entanglements as characters make obvious mistakes in choosing lovers.
Director Marshall, who is a master at orchestrating so many story elements, ties everything together as the many characters deal with the romantic aspects of Valentine’s Day. Yes, it’s contrived and mundane, but couples in the throws of love will eat it up like popcorn.
Football star, Sean Jackson (Eric Dane) has a secret to tell, but his bi-polar talent agent Paula (Queen Latifah) is trying to get him signed and is blindsided by his shocking announcement. His PR consultant (Jessica Biel) is a dateless wallflower on the big red day, but falls for sportscaster Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) at an Indian wedding.
There is a touching interlude with a character named Holden (Bradley Cooper) on an airliner with Julia Roberts playing an Army Captain heading home on a 24 hour leave. When they are leaving LAX Airport, Holden offers her his limo and driver to take her back home from the airport. But his motive is not romantic in this case.
The film is predictable but does have a few surprises and tricks the audience into thinking the obvious, but then sinks the hook for shock value. It’s just one of those films that exploits the Valentine’s Day hype to present various love stories that have as much long term romantic value as an unsold box of Valentine Day’s chocolates.
Clearly, the high price cast worked cheap to keep their mugs in front of the camera during a lull between winter and summer releases. It was fun for them and the audience with no guilt, like drinking a bottle of ultra-light beer.