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Valentine’s Day Part Sweet, Part Sour

Caitlin Ferraro | Monday, February 15, 2010

It’s no “Love Actually,” but director Gary Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day” is a heartwarming film with multiple, interconnected stories about love. A star-studded cast comes together to portray Los Angelinos trying to navigate love. But just like any box of assorted chocolates there are a few bad ones in the bunch.
Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner are absolutely fantastic as the arguable leads of the film, and on-screen best friends. Kutcher’s Reed is a hopeless romantic and florist who proposes to his workaholic girlfriend Morley, (Jessica Alba) but things are not as picture perfect as he thinks.
Meanwhile, Garner plays Julia, a lovable teacher who is head over heels for her heart surgeon boyfriend Dr. Harrison Copeland played by Patrick Dempsey. Unfortunately, this doc is no McDreamy, and drama and humor ensue. Kutcher and Garner are charming and endearing. They are the best parts of this film, and deservedly spend the most time on screen.
Supporting actors that shine are the always lovely Anne Hathaway and the goofy but adorable Topher Grace as a couple struggling with their new relationship. Hathaway is hysterical as an adult phone entertainer.
Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper holds his own with romantic comedy queen Julia Roberts as two passengers on a long plane ride. It is refreshing to have Roberts back in the rom-com sphere, but sadly she is only on the screen for all of six minutes. The pair are natural together, and it is nice to see Cooper play a good guy for once.
But with the good comes the bad. In the case of the Taylor Lautner-Taylor Swift duo, the very, very bad. Lautner doesn’t do much. He mostly stands there, next to an hyperactive Swift. He doesn’t even do what he did best in “New Moon,” which is to take off his shirt, because his character is too shy. Fail. And Swift should absolutely stick to singing. An accomplished young actress would be able to pull off her self-absorbed, immature homecoming queen character. However, she is simply annoying. If we had less of the Taylors and more of the better teen actors like Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins who are considering having sex for the first time, the film would have benefited. Their relationship has considerably more substance but we do not get the chance to see enough of them because of the large cast.
The bottom line is that there are simply too many characters in “Valentine’s Day” that certain storylines felt rushed while others were simply unnecessary. If you just had a little bit more information here or there things might have made a bit more sense, and the pacing would seem more even. But there are surprising twists and turns along the way that help the keep the viewers interested.
If you’re looking for the magic of “Love Actually” look elsewhere. The comparison is unavoidable, but perhaps Christmas is more romantic than Valentine’s Day or everything is sexier with a British accent, but “Love Actually” is leagues above this film.
But that is not to say this film is without merit.
A huge benefit to the large cast is that viewers have a greater opportunity to relate to a particular storyline or character. George Lopez provides comic relief as Kutcher’s employee and friend. Eric Dane is intriguing as an aging quarterback with a secret. And Jamie Foxx is funny as a sports reporter forced to do puff pieces on Valentine’s Day. He hates Valentine’s Day almost as much as his sports publicist contact, the neurotic Kara (Jessica Biel) who organizes an “I hate Valentine’s Day” party every year. She worries that no one will show up, but as smart viewers we know that there will probably be a few broken hearts that arrive late.
Romantic comedies rarely showcase love of all ages, but this film gets the opportunity. Bryce Robinson is adorable as Edison, the lovesick fifth grader determined on delivering flowers to his crush. And Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo demonstrate that love is timeless as an old married couple. The accomplished actors bring a refreshing sensitivity to the film.
Sure, the film is predictable at times, but any viewer should expect that heading into the theater given the title and trailer alone. What they might not expect is the surprisingly well-done job of portraying the varying emotions that one might feel when February 14th rolls around. Love, lust, bitterness, joy, regret and deceit are all on the menu. The characters range from those who are deeply in love, to those who think they are in love, to lying cheaters who never deserved any love. But that’s the beauty of this mosaic of different stories. There is something for everyone to enjoy, even if it just to see Swift be ridiculous.