Sneak Peek: I Hate Valentine’s Day

By Shu ChiangMovies - 25 January 2010 11:00 AM | Updated 11:53 AM

Sneak Peek: I Hate Valentine’s Day

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An incurable romantic, Genevieve (Nia Vardalos), who has a strangely detached view on romance, operates a thriving flower shop in Brooklyn, New York, that makes excellent business during Valentine’s Day.

Surrounded by a gaggle of close friends who struggle in the dating game, she dispenses advice like a love guru, even though she herself is guarded about love. Her rules on dating are: only five dates, and then it’s goodbye – exit on good terms, with no long-term commitment.

Her whole world is turned upside down when she falls for the new restaurateur next door, Greg (John Corbett), who questions the wisdom of her self-preservation romantic approach.

First Take

The hype about this film, opening 4 February, will invariably surround the reunion of the stars of the 2002 sleeper megahit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Vardalos and Corbett), which set the bar for independent films by grossing in excess of US$368 million worldwide.

While Corbett’s career has included successful turns on television, on Northern Exposure, Sex and the City, and now United States of Tara, Vardalos has proven to be a proverbial one-hit wonder thus far. A TV version of Wedding, called My Big Fat Greek Life, flopped, as did Connie and Carla and My Life in Ruins.

Do the pair recapture their magic from their first collaboration? Not quite. The new Vardalos is visibly slimmer – not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se – and seems to have lost a bit of her perkiness and sassiness, while Corbett here is as plain-vanilla as leading men get.

The Good

As a light – I mean really light – romantic comedy, the film has an easy-going air about it, and a mostly harmless sense of humour.

It doesn’t require mental gymnastics to figure out what’s going on, where the story’s going, and what the main characters need to do in order to find fulfilment. If nothing else, some viewers will find comfort in familiarity.

The Bad

The movie’s languid pace and under-developed characters, including cookie-cutter serial daters played by Judah Friedlander and Rachel Dratch (30 Rock), may not engage most audiences.

Vardalos just doesn’t have the same affability as when she first burst onto the scene. By slimming down considerably, she has distanced herself from the well-rounded ‘everywoman’ – albeit decidedly Greek – persona she initially projected. Do people root less for curvy women who slim down, because they feel these women have copped out to the Hollywood ideal and blended in? Perhaps.

While Corbett’s appeal throughout his career has been his laid-back, unflappable, slacker coolness, he really seems like he’s sleepwalking here.

inSing.com says

Co-written and directed by Vardalos herself, this film could be considered by cynics as a desperate attempt to regain her former glory. By casting Corbett, this has to be an attempt to get more mileage out of the faded cachet of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Optimists will choose this movie hoping for the same breeziness and freshness of that film. They will likely leave disappointed. As some might say, you should never go back; the lightning in the bottle has well and truly run out of juice.