And so the greeting-card holiday rigmarole gets the romantic comedy it deserves — a dull hodgepodge of star-stuffed vignettes, too cocooned in its own shiny little Hollywood world to be called cynical, but in no genuine way romantic or comedic either. Let’s all just get through it, OK?
To be fair, February can be a difficult month, for moviegoing and for holidays. And it probably was easier from the outset to make a good movie about Groundhog Day than to make one about Valentine’s Day, which is really saying something. Still, “Valentine’s Day” might at least have tried.
The screenplay by Katherine Fugate, from a story by Fugate with Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” would seem not to have been written so much as scribbled on cocktail napkins during those oft-referenced “early seatings” at the Beverly Wilshire. But that’s not a bother to the now apparently tone-deaf director Gary Marshall, here very much showing his pre-”Pretty Woman” roots in superficially nostalgic small-time TV; nor to stars Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Topher Grace, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, George Lopez, Eric Dane, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift, Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, Carter Jenkins, Emma Roberts, and — oh, wow, at this rate I’m not going to have room left to say anything else. Hey, just like the movie itself!
Anyway, everyone in the copious cast seems to be on the same page with regard to performance: For each of them, it consists merely of showing up. And with an army captain Julia Roberts more or less as plausible as a binge-eating chocoholic Jessica Biel, and so on, you could even say that there is a kind of unity here. A bogus and boring kind.
“Love is the only shocking act left on the planet,” says Kutcher’s quasi-central character, a moony, overworked florist, with his peculiar brand of cutie-pie conviction. And there we have our declaration of philosophical principles. All told, it’s probably for the best that the movie does not have the stomach or the attention span to substantiate them.
Alternatively, as my sweetheart sagely noted when Swift’s song “Today Was a Fairytale” burgeoned on the soundtrack: “A fairytale? Those are some low standards.” Actually, that’s just the sort of positive reinforcement a fella needs when enduring a film like this. It certainly feels more morally supportive than the bone-throw of a preview for Kevin Smith’s forthcoming and presumably dude-friendlier Bruce Willis action-comedy, now going too appropriately by the name of “Cop Out.” (See what I mean about the February moviegoing?) The other preview, fittingly enough, was for “Sex and the City 2.”
I promise it’s not from any special bitterness or chick-flick aversion that I’m inclined to beat up on “Valentine’s Day.” The movie-as-heart-shaped-box-of-candy m.o. has worked for me before (although obviously not recently). It’s just that this box seems so picked over, with all the good pieces apparently gobbled up by somebody else, and all the better-than-nothing leftovers quietly going stale. Well, at least when it’s out on DVD in a couple of months and reveling again in its own pathetic disposability, there’ll be no surprises. Buy early for next year!