What with director Richard Curtis’s “Love Actually” becoming a bonafide crowd pleasing classic featuring an ensemble of the greatest British actors around with the heavy theme of love conquering all, it was only a matter of time until American studios decided that Americans needed their own love themed ensemble classic, in spite of the fact that most people who love “Love Actually” don’t mind that it’s British. Nevertheless not ones to just stand back and let the Brits have the love, “Valentine’s Day” is a two hour Hallmark card, one that doesn’t enlist the best American cast, but the hottest, with the newest and most in vogue engaging in their own mini-plots vested in the themes of the exploitative of holidays: “Valentine’s Day.”
Where “Love Actually” had something of a purpose: “Love in all forms is the most important aspect of life, even in the face of the horrific 9/11 attacks that broke us,” director Garry Marshall’s just feels so intent on being saccharine and void of any actual genuine emotions and just wants to gauge our emotions in every way possible feeling every bit as artificial in sentiment as the holiday it’s promoting. How do you respond to a scene where Hector Elizondo asks his quiet grand son “Are you sick?” to which he responds deadpan: “Yes, love sick.” Aww, kids can fall in love to? Wait–why is that cute when we all know kids can have crushes and love interests? Oh no, Marshall is telling us that love can make you sick. I didn’t know that.
With a cliché love song soundtrack (“Feels like the First time” plays to explore Emma Roberts first time with her boyfriend, “For Once in My Life” blares when Kutcher proposes to his girlfriend Jessica Alba–cue groans) and symbolism that’s beaten over our heads (Two babies kissing in a flower shop!) “Valentine’s Day” is more painful than it should be. A movie about the loveliness of love should be an amazing romantic comedy with gripping themes and rich characterization, instead it’s just a tapestry of trite clichés and bland dialogue with sickening splashes of pink to fill in for the writers who can’t properly express in writing what we should be feeling on-screen. Even Frank Capra would be rolling his eyes with the blatant gauging at emotions Marshall is reduced to here implementing every subliminal form of valentine’s day manipulation he can muster up here shockingly opting out of having someone dressed as cupid running across the screen every five minutes–but he does have kids mispronounce the holiday as “Valentime’s,” isn’t that adorable?
The tone is so cutesy and sweet you almost expect characters to greet each other by pinching their cheeks pouting like babies. There isn’t a single genuine heartfelt moment in the entire two hour mess that takes place on-screen and no amount of big and mid-level actors and singers can cover up with is basically just a series of segments and scenes propped up to keep the audience on the verge of tears over and over again. As per usual Marshall, he opts instead for emotional manipulation instead of humanistic portrayals and completely misses the mark on a movie with great potential to be a holiday classic. A bonafide romantic comedy for the OMG generation, Garry Marshall is in typical form presenting an artificial sugary sweet romance ensemble comedy with about as generic a moral and message as you can find in a stock poem in a greeting card at your local pharmacy. Love is great, sad, scary, intense, and powerful. Thanks for the bulletin, Garry. It can also fool us in to wasting over two hours.