Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day, the movie

Never has the importance of opening weekend been more obvious than with the release of this one-day holiday movie, whose success hinges on the idea that women will drag their romance-challenged menfolk to a V-Day comedy. (Pretty clever marketing strategy, at that).

The movie, directed by 75-year-old Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Pretty Woman), is a labored, wheezing affair, with an all-star cast more populous than It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. The idea is a roundelay of relationship stories set in L.A., but there are so many plots, interchangeable actors (Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher? The two Jessicas, Alba and Biel?) and people in half-written parts (Queen Latifah as a sports agent, Taylor Swift as a lovestruck cheerleader, beautiful Jessica Biel as, unbelievably, a wallflower) that the result is eye-crossing confusion rather than amusement.

The few more or less fully developed stories have Jennifer Garner as a schoolteacher in love with a caddish doctor (Patrick Dempsey), while her dopey florist pal (Kutcher) secretly yearns for her, and Anne Hathaway as a phone-sex worker whose naughty career repels her straitlaced suitor (Grace). (The “phone sex” conceit, which has Hathaway imitating a Southern belle and other characters, gives you an idea of how dated and tired this movie’s tropes are). Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine show up as long-married grandparents spatting over a long-ago affair, and Julia Roberts plays an Army captain who bonds with Bradley Cooper aboard an airplane. Katherine Fugate’s script furnishes too many situations and too few laughs, though I'll give the movie half a point for the unexpected gay twist in a macho character's story.

(A shorter version of this appeared in Cleveland Scene.)

No comments: