It is February 14th, and the sun is shining brightly down on all the hustle and bustle happening in beautiful Los Angeles. However, for a group of intertwining couples, singles, and those pairings that are just in between those two polar opposites, love isn’t in the air in every case.
Thus, we get Valentine’s Day, a film from Pretty Woman (1990) director Garry Marshall that plays like a mediocre version of Love Actually (2003), but whose actors put twice as much effort into keeping the cliched romantic-comedy afloat.
The film puts a cast of talented and beautiful actors and actresses at the forefront, and let’s them each get their fifteen minutes (literally) of fame. The ensemble cast includes some Academy favorites (Jamie Foxx, Kathy Bates, Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Queen Latifah, and Shirley MacLaine), some up-and-comers (Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, Emma Roberts) and everyone in between (Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, George Lopez, Topher Grace, Jennifer Garner, Patrick Dempsey, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane). As you can see, anyone trying to name all the key performers in the film would be out of breath before they got halfway through, and in this case, all that star-power leaves something to be desired from all performances. However, some actors stand out more than others.
Hathaway and MacLaine are truly the spellbinding actresses here. Liz (Hathaway) is a phone-sex worker who is conflicted between making a pay check and taking the next step with her date for the night, naive Jason (Grace). She is both funny and sweet, and shows more depth than you’d expect in a film that takes more away from the ensemble than it gives. MacLaine also, by far, gives the most graceful performance of the female leads with her turn as Estelle, a happily married woman who has been holding a shattering secret from her husband (Hector Elizondo). When she detoriates to tears in the middle of her living room at the moment she tells him her secret, we truly feel her pain, which is unexpected in a film where all the actors are grasping for some character depth, and few are getting it.
As for the male leads, Kutcher and Dane show what they’re made of. Kutcher gives Reed Bennett a sympathetic feel as a man who has both gotten engaged to, and subsequently been dumped by his girlfriend Morley (Alba) in a performance that isn’t remarkable, but one which definitely show Kutcher is more than the meathead he impersonates. Dane is truly hilarious in his turn as aging football star Sean Jackson, who is undergoing a midlife crisis while choosing to either retire or play for a different team in the upcoming season. Dane, primarily known as a doctor on television’s smash Grey’s Anatomy, really shines, and the concluding scene involving his character is easily the best and most surprising scene in the film.
While no one lights up the screen, not even Taylor Lautner turns in a bad performance here. The performers are all smiles, and everyone seems to have had a good time making the flick. This film isn’t a comeback for Garry Marshall of any sorts, nor is it the crowning achievement of anyone’s career. However, it is a film that succeeds at one thing: it gives what it promises the viewer it will. It is a cute film about love and loss on Valentine’s Day, set in a bright, sunny location, and boasts the best cast since Ocean’s Thirteen (2007).
Valentine’s Day does not contain eloquent dialogue that will be quoted for years to come. It doesn’t contain performance that will win Academy Awards, although some MTV Movie Awards are a given. It is a film that is fun enough to be entertaining, but average enough to be forgettable. If you do see it, see it for stars, because a cast like this will likely not come around again until the sequel.