‘Valentine’s Day’ drowns in star power

Peterson Hill

Gary Marshall directed a wonderful romantic comedy once, a film that will probably go down as one of the most beloved of the genre. That film was “Pretty Woman,” a darling little romantic comedy with one of the most likable leading ladies in the business, Julia Roberts.

That movie came out 20 years ago, and Marshall has never been able to capture that sense of wonder or enchantment since. His most recent effort, “Valentine’s Day,” is a crapshoot of minor efforts that fails on an epic scale.

The movie takes place on, believe it or not, Valentine’s Day. Ashton Kutcher is the central character of the film, owns a floral shop, and Feb. 14 is obviously his highest grossing day of the year. He gets engaged to Jessica Alba, and his best friend is an elementary school teacher (Jennifer Garner). One of her students is in love, and his babysitter is about to have sex for the first time.

Her grandparents, played by Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine, are still as in love as they were the day they met and their daughter is Julia Roberts, and she is on a plane with Bradley Cooper who just broke up with someone.

Then there is a pro football quarterback, played by Eric Dane, and the list goes on and on and my frustration with the film is probably mounting as furiously as your frustrations with trying to put together the stories in this film, and that’s only half of them.

Marshall’s film is as blatantly manufactured as the day that it is about. There was an impressive little interweaving film about love and loss from 2003, “Love Actually,” that this movie is desperately trying to be.

There were about half as many characters in that film, so Richard Curtis was able to build a sense of conviction with each set of relationships in the film. Marshall’s film features too many stories that don’t add anything new to the overall film.

Of course, seeing all of these on screen is nice because they’re all bringing a likable presence to the screen. But they aren’t playing a part, just being themselves on the big screen because they don’t have enough time to make any sense of what they are doing.

The run time could be one of the major problems in the film. It shoves all these stories into just over two hours, but feels excruciatingly long. Every moment seems fabricated, and some of the actors are trying to make something out of the bland and lifeless material.

All of this is to no avail, because this script by Katherine Fugate doesn’t have a moment of true heart in it.

The past few years have been drought of romantic comedies. I didn’t have very high hopes going into this film, but I am one who loves to be surprised by something and given a darling little movie to remind me how love can be quiet a magical little spell. Sadly, Marshall was unable to garner any sense of the wonder of love because he is more interested in skating over all the parts that make it worthwhile.

Bottom Line: “Valentine’s Day” is a sprawling connection of love stories that has more stars than an Academy Award and a Grammy red carpet show, but only utilizes their star power so they don’t even have to build any type of legitimatized characterization in their performances.

*1/2out of ****

Directed by: Gary Marshall

Starring: 45% of Hollywood

Written by: Katherine Fugate

MPAA Rating: PG-13