The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Valentine's Day

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Valentine’s Day –   Light and Sweet Like A Candy Kiss

Director Garry Marshall has brought together an all star ensemble cast for his latest film written by Katherine Fugate that revolves around the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day.    The narrative is structured similar to Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, in that it doesn’t focus on one couple but follows several characters whose stories become intertwined. Since love has no age boundaries, the unfolding story concerning matters of the heart runs the gamut from pre teen to an elderly married couple. Audiences can expect a mix of romance and heartbreak and even a few surprises.

At the center of this romantic comedy, set in sunny Los Angeles, is flower shop owner Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) who is madly in love with his live in girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba). He proposes to Morley one morning, but soon is crushed when she dumps him with the excuse that she isn’t ready for that kind of commitment. Reed’s best friend is the radiant, Julia (Jennifer Garner, as charming as ever) a grammar school teacher who is in love with Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey) a handsome heart surgeon who, unbeknownst to Julia, is a deceitful, lying cad.  

A local TV sports reporter Kalvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) complains to his producer (Kathy Bates, wasted in just two brief scenes) that he isn't happy that she has given him an assignment  to cover a fluffy Valentine’s Day story. He’d rather be going after a story on pro football star Sean Jackson (Eric Dane, who co-stars with Dempsey on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy as hunky surgeons nicknamed McSteamy and McDreamy), whose career is in jeopardy, but decides to make an unexpected shocking announcement. Queen Latifah plays Paula Thomas, Jackson’s bi-polar (though there is no hint of that) agent.  Jessica Biel is Kara Monahan, his lonely publicist and, like Kelvin, hates Valentine’s Day.  Josh Morris (Topher Grace) works at Paula's talent agency and has been dating her temporary receptionist Liz (Anne Hathaway) who moonlights for Naughty Nymphos as an adult phone sex operator/entertainer but has been trying to keep that a secret from her new beau of just two weeks. Hathaway has lots of comedic talent and is very funny when putting on a Southern or Russian accent or pretending to be a dominatrix for her phone clients.

Representing the senior generation are Shirley MacClaine and Hector Elizondo as Estelle and Edgar respectively, an elderly, devoted couple who have been married for fifty years but hit a snag in their relationship when a long hidden secret is revealed.  Living with them are their grandchildren, Eddison (Bryce Robinson) one of Julia’s fifth grade students and precocious youngster who wants to send flowers to his Valentine, and his pretty teenage sister Grace (Emma Roberts, Julia’s niece) who is plotting to lose her virginity with boyfriend Alex (Carter Jenkins) during school lunch hour. A comical but embarrassing interference takes its toll when he is caught waiting naked in her bedroom by her mother.

Overrated singing sensation Taylor Swift makes a less than adequate (I am trying to be nice) big screen debut as Felicia, a ditzy high school cheerleader that continually gushes over her jock boyfriend, Willy (Taylor Lautner). Rather than cute and bubbly, I found her to be annoying. All she does is jump around, ramble incessantly and act like a giddy fool.  I don’t know whether to blame Swift’s “acting” on bad direction or if this was the best Marshall could get out of her.  Sorry to say, her acting debut is far from swift.

While all this is happening on the ground, seated next to each other on a plane flight is a mystery man, Holden (Bradley Cooper) lending a sympathetic ear to Army Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) a soldier returning home after a long tour of duty. Neither connects on a romantic level. You have to wait till the end to see how they fit into the mesh of things.

Rounding out the large cast is George Lopez as Alfonso, Reed’s flower shop employee, driver and best friend who, as a happily married, family man offers him wise advice. There are also a few cameo appearances including a brief scene with Joe Montegno that is very funny and a blink-and-you-will-miss-him cameo by the director, Marshall.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t rate as one of the best romantic comedies ever.  It’s contrived and in one particular case, so formulaic and predictable that I saw the outcome from the get go.  Nevertheless, I found it to be refreshingly light and fluffy and lacking vulgarity, which in itself says a lot.  I liked the couple of surprising twists at the end, and, if you stay after the credits you should get a kick out of the humorous outtakes.

Valentine’s Day arrives in theatres just in time for cupid to swing his arrow and reach target audiences on February 14.  It is the perfect date movie, featuring a wonderful cast (excluding Taylor Swift) and some sweet, touching moments that are easy to swallow, just like a gift of boxed chocolate, but without the calories.