Valentine's Day Review

It doesn’t take a genius to decry most romantic comedies these days for being derivative works doing the bare minimum to please audiences desperate for a movie that doesn’t just feature romance as a subplot to a rip-roaring adventure. Romantic comedies, plainly speaking, are a rare creature, like the tiger. Then you have the good romantic comedies – ever rarer – perhaps represented in this simile by a white tiger. Oooh, aaah. When a really good romantic comedy comes along people of all ages, gender, and creed can typically enjoy it. There’s something universal about stories about love. Love Actually fit this bill. Women love it, and most guys, whether they’ll admit it or not, find it more than tolerable. The more honest ones will cop to enjoying it.

However, this review isn’t about Love Actually. Or rather, it is, in that Valentine’s Day, takes the elements that made the former superb, waters them down, and ruins everything. Did you think Death at a Funeral was the most unnecessary remake of 2010? Well, you’re still right, but Valentine’s Day comes in a close second place, as the impromptu remake of Love Actually that no one asked for.

Like the 2003 hit, Valentine’s Day boasts a remarkably impressive cast. Though unlike its predecessor, Valentine’s has comprised a cast of today’s A-List generation with names like Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Lautner, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, and Taylor Swift. Then compounds it with a sprinkling of tenured names like Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah, George Lopez, and Shirley Maclaine. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting Latifah or Lopez are on the same level as Bates or Maclaine, they’re just not quite at the height of their careers anymore). Looking at that billing you can’t help but wonder what script they all read that got them to jump on board. It can’t be the one that’s in this film, as it’s absolutely bland and nondescript. If the characters aren’t direct rip-offs of one from Love Actually, it’s shallow and worthless. Comparison?

Hathaway is an actress trying to get by in between gigs as a phone sex callgirl, whose “sultry voice” and suggestive content are comparable to the better executed subplot of the two porn stars in Love Actually. Shirley Maclaine plays a woman who cheated on her lifetime husband only to find that their love is enough to repair the breach of trust, comparable to the Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson story in Love Actually. A precocious young boy attempts to win the heart of a girl all the while confiding his romantic musings to his wiser I’m-your-parent-and-friend grandfather, again finding a parallel in the Liam Neeson and Thomas Sangster plot. The comparisons go on and on, and that’s not the worst part: it’s totally unnecessary. There are hundreds of love stories to be told, and many different ways to tie them all together. The six degrees of separation concept has been done to death at this point, and while it’s certainly interesting to see how the lives of so many people can interconnect unexpectedly, it’s no longer unexpected when the plotpoints so closely resemble those of another, better film that had an identical layout.

It’s a film that has been copied and pasted into an American setting with an admittedly much more photogenic cast as if a Hollywood executive suspected that most American audiences didn’t appreciate the amount of talent we had heaped upon us in Love Actually. If you didn’t, then first, go on IMDb.com, see all the names, then watch it again and appreciate the level of acting you received from an unexpectedly good romantic comedy. Then, do yourself a favor, and give Valentine’s Day a wide berth and leave it on the shelf.

The film doesn’t benefit much from the hi-def treatment on account of it’s a bunch of folks talking about the quirks of love, but if you can’t appreciate beautiful people looking really beautiful then you won’t appreciate this movie anyways.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The combo pack includes a Digital Copy of the movie as well as the traditional selection of bloopers, additional scenes, and trailers (in this case they REALLY want you to know that the Sex and the City 2 trailer is on here). The meaningful extras include a decent audio commentary (though he seems content to ignore the glaring similarities to the older, better version of this film) and a flattery reel about producer Garry Marshall. There’s also a Jewel music video…for what it’s worth.

"Valentine's Day" is on sale May 18, 2010 and is rated PG13. Comedy, Romance. Directed by Garry Marshall. Written by Katherine Fugate. Starring Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Queen Latifah, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Swift, Emma Roberts, George Lopez, Hector Elizondo, Taylor Lautner, Topher Grace.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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