Movie Review: Valentine's Day

By Matthew Huntley

February 23, 2010

Based on the contents of this Polaroid, I shall now call you Inch High Private Eye.

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Watching Valentine's Day is like sifting through a copy of Us Weekly - it starts out as a guilty pleasure but you eventually just feel guilty watching it. The reason people enjoy celebrity tabloids is because they're mindless and easy to absorb while standing in the grocery store checkout line, but they're not something you take home with you, and they're certainly not something you endure for 117 minutes.

This ensemble romantic comedy was directed by Garry Marshall, whose only great movie remains Pretty Woman, and I think even he knows this because Valentine's Day makes blatant references to that film. It's so sloppy and unfocused it needs to piggyback on the memory of a better movie just to stay afloat.

It's irritating to think millions of people will be suckered into seeing this movie because of its famous cast. My guess is they'll walk away disappointed and mostly unaffected, despite all the beautiful people. There are no meaningful, interesting, funny or anecdotal conflicts in the overstuffed screenplay. Some of the scenes and dialogue are so random and ineffectual they don't seem like they were ever written, but just sort of thrown in without considering the consequence.

The movie is apparently a day in the life of Los Angeles residents living through Valentine's Day. Some are happy, most are sad, and all are supposed to learn something about love. The movie is by no means complicated, but in the end, I still don't know what it wanted to say about Valentine's Day, love or relationships (is there a message here?). Maybe it's because it doesn't say anything at all. It's merely a celebrity showcase and excuse for wealthy people to get together and play. This doesn't make for good cinema. It's garbage.


The worst of the bunch is Taylor Swift, who may be a good singer in real life, but when it comes to acting, she shouldn't quit her day job. It angers me to think so many people, especially women, will watch her scenes with Taylor Lautner (you know him as the werewolf from the Twilight series) and laugh only because they want to be (or be with) these two celebrities.

None of the characters or their stories is developed beyond the actors and actresses making a few appearances. I'd have to count just to be sure, but I'd say only a couple have more than 15 minutes of screen time. Most disappear for several scenes at a time, and with none of them doing or saying anything interesting or funny, how did the filmmakers expect to hold our attention?

I won't name off all the cast members, but they include many of Hollywood's prettiest and most popular faces, including Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Ashton Kutcher and Julia Roberts. On paper, the script is a collection of intertwining stories full of clich├ęs, meet cutes and happenstance occurrences, but the results are futile and lame because we don't get the sense any of the stories or people inhabiting them are real.

The underlying problem with Valentine's Day is it assumes the cast and subject matter are enough to win us over. No real thought or care seems to have gone into its making. As expensive as it probably was to produce, it feels cheap and thrown together. Because of all the big names in it, the studio probably let Garry Marshall do whatever he wanted, no matter how many times it had been done before. How many times must we witness the idiot plot moment when one character is trying to tell another something very important, but the second character keeps interrupting? And was it really necessary to see a cheating man get his comeuppance in front of his wife and girlfriend by having the girlfriend pretend to be somebody else?

Bottom line: this is a dumb, witless exercise in mainstream filmmaking starring famous celebrities, made for famous celebrities. After watching Valentine's Day and thinking about all its wasted resources, I feel the urge to learn something new and become more useful to society. I can only hope the cast and filmmakers feel the same way after making it.



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