When the best part of a film is the gag reel playing during its end credits, you kinda know you’ve blown your dough. Not that you’d be alone in the case of Valentine’s Day, however, which has been a strong box office performer due to excellent marketing and a host of big names, and apparently has already had a sequel green-lit.
When Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) wakes this particular February 14th, he knows this will be a Valentine’s Day like no other – not only does he own a major flower and gift store and thus it’s his biggest day of the year, but he will also propose to his girlfriend. After Reed we meet a varied cast of characters – there are those who celebrate each year with ‘I hate Valentine’s Day’ parties, to others who just love being in love, to yet more who don’t know yet that today will change their lives.
It frequently feels like this film has been written and directed to seem as cheap and tacky as the Los Angeles it portrays. Characters are unfortunate enough to be subjected to pratfalls and sight gags that would make many first-year film students embarassed, and it comes as no surprise to see the writers’ previous credits include such gems as Never Been Kissed and The Prince & Me. Really, there are only so many times audiences can be subjected to a character having trouble getting off a treadmill that is getting faster and faster, aren’t there? Who is kidding whom?
That the characters in each of the individual stories will eventually cross paths or be shown to be somehow related is no surprise, but it is frequently remarkable how contrived these links can be. The sub-storylines are repetitive and painfully manipulative, with certain characters completely neglected once they’ve served their purpose and then trotted out at the end of the film to afford it some ill-deserved semblance of balance. Seriously, if the writers don’t like their characters enough to conclude the stories they’ve written for them, why should the audience?
There are several story threads that do work, particularly that featuring Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts during a long-haul flight, and Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway (almost) manage to succeed despite fairly trite material. Ashton Kutcher actually comes out of this mess looking better than most of his more highly regarded peers, a claim that cannot have been made very frequently in the past.
Biting off more than you can chew is one thing (and certainly director Garry Marshall and his writers have attempted to juggle a ridiculous number of storylines and actors), but being utterly derivative and uninspired while doing so means your film cannot possibly succeed. Scattered moments in which the performers make something of the dross they’re asked to perform can’t make up for the long stretches of boredom and disappointment that must accompany any viewing of Valentine’s Day.Rating: