When you have a film with a star-studded cast, the results can be well, fabulous like in Love Actually or He's Just Not That Into You. They can also be disappointing like in Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day. Marshall despite being quiet of late, has brought us some of the greatest films of our time like Pretty Woman and Beaches. On paper, the cast almost looks too good to be true: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Queen Latifah, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates and many, many more.
The film houses multiple story lines which run in tandem one Valentine's Day in Los Angeles. The film's primary story line revolves around florist and all-around nice guy Reed (Ashton Kutcher), who proposes to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba). Upon announcing this news to his friends who all seem surprised that she said "yes", we get the back story that their relationship might be rockier than it seems. Reed is best friends with school teacher Julia (Jennifer Garner) and she is involved with Harrison (Patrick Dempsey), a married doctor. She doesn't know about his marriage though until Harrison buys flowers from Reed's shop for both his wife and mistress Julia. Perhaps there might be an undertone of romance between Reed and Julia, an option neither has explored.
Liz (Anne Hathaway) works odd jobs including a temp job at a Public Relations agency where she reports to Paula (Queen Latifah). Liz is dating Jason (Topher Grace), but he has no idea that she is working a side job as a sex chat line worker. Hathaway steps outside her comfort zone, completely embarrassing herself in her scenes with awkward sex dialogue - she even does a hilariously spot-on Russian accent in one of them. Although she is brilliant as usual, I'm sure she'll be regretting this role at some point down the line.
Kara (Jessica Biel) also reports to Paula and she is anti-Valentine's Day. Becoming saddened that none of her friends have RSVPd to her Anti-Valentine's Day Dinner, she meets Kelvin (Jamie Foxx), a sports newscaster at a local station. Kara is football star Sean's (Eric Dane) public mouthpiece, being assigned a clean-up job after the announcement that he is let-go from his team. Kelvin is desperate to cover Sean's story also and gets in good with Kara in more ways than one, with a romance looming between them.
We are introduced also to Kate (Julia Roberts) and Holden (Bradley Cooper) on an airplane as they are on a flight back to Los Angeles. Kate is in the military (unconvincingly) and flying back for a one-day visit on Valentine's Day to see a loved one. Holden, it appears takes a liking to Kate as we watch them banter back and forth on the airplane. It is not until the end that we are thrown for a big gay surprise, but I won't tell you which characters gets outed though.
There are also a few minor subplots including Willy (Taylor Lautner) and Felicia's (Taylor Swift) superficial high school romance, which makes a mockery of unrealistic young love. To contrast this though, you have Grace (Emma Roberts) and Alex (Cartner Jenkins) who are a bit more grounded in having dated for a while, deciding to have sex for the first time on Valentine's Day.... but this goes horribly wrong. I will have you know that Lautner can make a theatre full of young women (and some men) let out a collective scream by just popping up on the screen.
So if you're not confused by this point, then you deserve a box of truffles and a dozen roses. Now imagine what it was like to sit through this jumbled mishmash of stories. Valentine's Day is overambitious, yet grossly under-developed and this is perhaps the fault of screenwriter Katherine Fugate, who got in over her head here. I will admit that when all the confusion does get tied-together with some semblance of resolution at the end, there are some touching moments. Reed and Julia's story gets tied together sweetly although its context defies the logic of love and Kate's return home is one of the few genuine moments in the story. And wait til you see Paula bring down the house with her best African Dominatrix impression at the end. Valentine's Day from New Line Cinema/Warner Bros., is best watched with few expectations and a hope for nothing more than mild entertainment. Grade: C
There are apparently talks of a sequel from Marshall called New Year's Eve to hit screens late 2011. And people will probably eat it up just like they did with this one.