Where the movie really succeeds is in the peripheral storylines that come together at the end of the film.
With a title like Valentine’s Day, you can pretty much figure out what you’re going to get from this movie. What comes as a big surprise, though, is that for all the formulaic ingredients of a standard romantic comedy, the movie manages to work in a few unexpected moments and some genuinely touching scenes. Though the film stumbles over its unnecessarily large ensemble cast periodically, it is generally a sweet movie that serves its purpose.
The movie is set in Los Angeles on Valentine’s Day and follows a dozen or so characters on their quest to celebrate the most romantic day of the year. Though there are multiple storylines, several key relationships are highlighted as the day progresses. First is Reed (Ashton Kutcher), who wakes up first thing in the morning and proposes to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba). Reed is the owner of a flower shop that caters, apparently, to all of Los Angeles. His very good friend, Julia (Jennifer Garner), is in a relationship with a handsome doctor (Patrick Dempsey) who has to leave town for Valentine’s Day. Another blossoming couple is Jason (Topher Grace) and Liz (Anne Hathaway), whose relationship is brand new and rather precarious as Liz moonlights as an “adult phone entertainer” and has not been able to tell Jason yet.
Dealing with his own set of personal issues is Sean Jackson (Eric Dane), an NFL quarterback who just became a free agent and is being pressured to retire. His publicist, Kara (Jessica Biel), is attempting to clear the air for him while also dealing with her depressing loneliness on the holiday. She is also being hounded for an interview by Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx), a local sports journalist and fellow Valentine’s Day hater.
For the most part, the movie follows the standard plot outline of characters discovering the truth about other characters, hearts being broken only to be put together again, and plenty of misunderstandings. Where the movie really succeeds and truly touches the audience is in the peripheral storylines that come together at the end of the film. Holden (Bradley Cooper) and Kate (Julia Roberts) have some of the most honest and entertaining moments in the film. The two are strangers who are stuck on a 14-hour flight together and develop a unique relationship.
Similarly, there is a very sweet and moving look at how love changes as we get older. Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine are wonderful as grandparents whose love is more than just chocolates and flowers; it means honesty and forgiveness.
The comparisons to Love Actually are so numerous that they don’t need to be listed. It’s unfortunate, because Valentine’s Day could have succeeded on its own without trying to emulate one of the greatest movies about love of all time. However, the movie does work mainly because of the wealth of talent which is able to make the audience forget the thinness of many of the stories. Actors like Roberts, Hathaway, Grace, Cooper and Foxx bring such weight to the movie that you can enjoy it despite the cheesy plots and corny dialogue. | Matthew F. Newlin