Valentine's Day is a film so manufactured that you can almost hear the conversation in the studio boardroom as you watch it. Presumably one executive said to another, lets get Pretty Woman director Gary Marshall, construct several multi-generational romantic plot lines that tug at your heart in the most obvious, cheesy way, cram in as many stars for as little time as possible so the budget stays under control and voila, you've got the perfect bonbon for Valentine's day.
The film, written by Katherine Fugate, follows several Los Angeles residents as they stumble in and out of love on Valentine's Day. The intertwining love stories include a florist played by Ashton Kutcher, who has proposed to his girlfriend, played by Jessica Alba, who reluctantly says yes. Meanwhile the florists' best friend, played by Jennifer Garner, is having an affair with a man who is married but she doesn't know that. However the florist does because the man sends out two bouquets from his flower shop -presumably there is only one in the greater Los Angeles area.
Meanwhile, a soldier, played by Julia Roberts is on her way home from Iraq. She strikes up a camaraderie with a fellow passenger played by Bradley Cooper. Another love story is heating up between a mail room man, played by Topher Grace and a secretary, played by Anne Hathaway, only the secretary has to keep excusing herself because she also works as a phone-sex operator. To be demographically safe, the film also includes a little boy-girl friendship and a narrative about an elderly married couple in which the wife, played by Shirly Mclaine, tells her husband about an affair she had many years ago.
You've probably guessed that Valentine's Day is a manically busy film. The narrative cuts back and forth between the twenty-odd characters but there isn't one story here that feels authentic or insightful. It's all Hallmark-style easy emotions. The high star wattage does keep the film coasting for a while. The collective charms of Roberts, Hathaway, Garner, Mclaine, Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Queen Latifah and Taylor Lautner in all his buff glory, keep you engaged and distracted. But eventually, even this wears thin. For me the final straw was an Indian angle that was probably stuck in to provide color, literally. So we have an Indian wedding in which the bride gets cake rubbed on her face like it was a primary school birthday party.
Valentine's Day doesn't have the ambition to be anything more than a plastic, fast-food quality rom-com and that it fulfills admirably. The grapevine buzzes that a sort-of-sequel is already underway for New Year's Eve. See it if you must.