Valentine's Day is the American answer to Love Actually, but with about as much warmth and heart as that musty old box of fruit jellies your grandmother gave you for Christmas two years ago and those plastic flowers that have been sitting on her dining table gathering dust for the past decade. No silky-smooth chocolates from your lover here, nor a glorious bunch of red roses waiting for you at the office.
With an all-star cast of about two dozen, each with their own clichéd, interlinking plot (we’d say intertwined, but that sounds a little too romantic), crammed into the space of two hours, Valentine's Day is truly an atrocity to behold. At least none of the actors will take the fall, because it’s too hard to pinpoint just which particularly vapid storyline is to blame. And they’re all incredibly forgettable, so it’s really win-win for the actors: big money for something nobody will actually remember they were in.
Ashton Kutcher takes the lead as the sucker-for-romance florist who’s oblivious to his lack of chemistry with his girlfriend, Jessica Alba. Jennifer Garner, Kutcher’s teacher best friend, is also ignorant of the failures of her own relationship. We won’t spoil how that winds up. Kudos to the scriptwriter for not actually using the line, “is it because you’re secretly in love with me?” though.
There are many other beautiful examples of clichés and critical plotlines being bulldozed in with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, our favourite being the beautiful young schoolgirl Emma Roberts telling her teacher (possibly not her teacher – could just be an unfortunate-looking schoolfriend with all the fuddy-duddyness of an ancient librarian, but we can’t say for certain), “normally I would help you with that thing you need help with over lunch, but I’m going to have sex with my boyfriend for the first time instead.” Or something. Another being, “Look at how well daddy juggles,” while he’s er, juggling. Actual juggling, with balls. No prizes for guessing what that slimeball is up to behind his wife’s back.
The soundtrack leaves a little to be desired, although it is excellent for reminding you exactly which plotline you’re currently following. It was especially helpful when the preppy lyrics, “It feels like the first time,” started blaring when the virgins were preparing to meet for their lunchtime rendezvous. Although that all went ‘hilariously’ wrong, if you can believe it.
Oh, and we can’t forget the kid-in-love storyline. Naturally, the child in question speaks like an adult, possibly because he’s incredibly mature, possibly because an adult wrote the script. And, of course, the kid’s acting was terrible, but decent child actors are so hard to find and it’s really not that noticeable alongside the rest of the movie. So don’t worry about it, kid.
None of the characters are particularly likeable or, indeed, believable. The character development is some of the worst we’ve ever seen, probably due to the fact that a ridiculous number of plots were squeezed into the brief space of two hours. And some of the storylines didn’t even have, well… storylines. We’re still not sure why high school track athlete Taylor Lautner and dizzy dancing girl Taylor Swift were there – probably to fill the teen quota.
To add to the unbelievable quality of it all, there’s not a single plot with a realistic undertone of bitterness that doesn’t get resolved. Everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow and filled with fluff. If only they’d managed to shoehorn in some fuzzy, heartwarming moments alongside all those clichés and beautiful people.
And, we’re sorry, but the only appropriate response to finding out your new girlfriend is a phone sex operator is sheer wanton lust. Followed by many inappropriate phone calls in the middle of the night when she’s trying to sleep. And the girl should, under no circumstances, be ashamed about this revelation. Ugh.
As is vacuous romcom tradition, there is an airport scene – but they couldn’t even get that right. Why isn’t he wearing any socks? Everybody knows you don’t need to take your socks off to go through security. But, then again, socks just aren’t sexy, so why feature them in a romantic comedy? Wait, is it a comedy? Who can say.
This is a bland, predictable film that doesn’t encompass any of the heartwarming aspects of a good romcom. (Nor any of the comedy.) If you can overlook the shoddy character development, the lack of any believable desire or lust or even love, and you just want to stare at some beautiful people, then sure, watch this movie.
If you believe Valentine’s Day is truly a day to celebrate love and look down on the poor souls who seethe bitterly at the overt commercialism of it all – watch this movie and fall in line. Or if you just want to get your money’s worth on Hollywood actors (remember: two dozen), that’s a good reason to see it too.0