Rating: 3 out of 5
Valentine’s Day. I mean the movie’s actually called Valentine’s Day. Oh, god.
Since there was no way I could even fake a fair review for this brazenly consumerist piece of Hollywood schlock, I decided to ask a friend along to the screening, in a vain attempt at objectivity.
My friend is 24-year-old Alicia. She’s straight, a cherub and, dare I say, a romantic too. In other words, a fine sample of the movie’s target demographic.
I’m 30, straight, borderline cynical, a curmudgeon before his time. We enter the movie; Alicia’s cheerful, and I’m a miserable git.
The movie: it’s a better-made American equivalent of the 2003 Christmas rom-com, Love, Actually (2003).
Like its British predecessor, VD (as this grimly contagious movie should be called) is an omnibus movie: it’s got a bag of stars (old, young and very young), cute dogs (who frown at human beings in embarrassing situations) and a mosaic of cliché-ridden stories that come to a predictably happy ending.
The stories, all set in Los Angeles (an appropriately plastic choice), include the following (spoilers ahead – beware):
* A young florist (Ashton Kutcher) is dumped by his fiancée (Jessica Alba). A young teacher (Jennifer Garner, luscious), the florist’s best friend, discovers that her boyfriend (Patrick Dempsey) is a cheating skunk and dumps him. The florist and teacher end up together, and Best Friends become Best Friends With Benefits.
* Two strangers (Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper) meet on airplane and exchange polite, flirtatious words. You think they’re going to get together, but maybe they’re not.
* Two pairs of high school teenagers (Carter Jenkins, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner) prepare to have sex for the first time. They don’t ultimately because this is a PG-rated film and all teenagers have to remain virgins.
* A football star announces that he is gay. Nothing more is really said about it, because the idea of a gay football star is vaguely taboo. The mere mention of it will create shockwaves amongst the target demographic.
* A mailman (Topher Grace) almost breaks up with a hot chick (Anne Hathaway) after he learns that she’s a part-time phone-sex operator. But he doesn’t in the end because she is, after all – phone-sex or not – a hot chick.
* A black sports reporter (Jamie Foxx) meets a lonely and comically desperate publicist (Jessica Biel). They hook up, because Inter-racial Couplings Are Okay.
* A cute white boy (Bryce Robinson) presents his valentine to a cute Indian girl (Megan Suri). Because Inter-racial Couplings Begin Somewhere.
* An old couple (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine) quarrel, and make up, and snog. Because old people are human, too.
* Queen Latifah.
That’s an impressive number of stories to fit into two hours, and director Garry Marshall – shrewdly avoiding the pretensions of Richard Curtis (the man behind Love, Actually) – keeps the stories fluffy and well-connected. The movie is smoothly executed.
I didn’t enjoy it, but I derived much pleasure from seeing my friend, Alicia, laughing her heart out at the film’s charm and humour.
I gave it two stars. She gave it four. Which averages out to three.
So there you go.
Ken Kwek is a playwright and screenwriter. His film credits include The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion (2009) and the forthcoming Kidnapper (2010).