Watch your favourite stars cash paychecks ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Watch your favourite stars cash paychecks

Valentine's Day
My rating:

I have a number reasons for being biased against this film. One: it's been getting pretty lousy reviews everywhere. Two: sold-out screenings thwarted me from watching it twice. Three: I am a single guy going alone to watch a movie called Valentine's Day a week after Valentine's Day. So it occurs to me that if I gave this an unfavourable review, that might be construed as a sign that TMBF is losing his highly-acclaimed objectivity.

Naah. It really does suck.

It is Valentine's Day, and love is in the air in Los Angeles. Reed (Ashton Kutcher) is a florist making deliveries; he has also just proposed to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) who is less than enthused. His friend Julia (Jennifer Garner), an elementary school teacher, is dating a doctor (Patrick Dempsey), whom Reed finds out is actually married. Julia's friend Kara (Jessica Biel), a publicist, is organising her annual "I Hate Valentine's Day" party, and sparks fly when Kelvin (Jamie Foxx), a TV sports journalist, attempts to dig a story out of her concerning her client, football star Sean Jackson (Eric Dane). Liz (Anne Hathaway) and Jason (Topher Grace) have recently started dating, but he doesn't know that she's a phone sex worker. Grace (Emma Roberts) and Alex (Carter Jenkins) are in high school and contemplating having sex for the first time. Nine-year-old Edison (Bryce Robinson), one of Julia's students, is feeling the flush of first love - but his grandparents Estelle (Shirley Maclaine) and Edgar (Hector Elizondo) have to deal with a dark secret from the long years of their marriage. And two strangers, Kate (Julia Roberts) and Holden (Bradley Cooper) meet and connect on a plane.

I usually try to fit in all the major characters in the movie in my synopsis, but in this case there's really no point. The ensemble romantic comedy has been done before with 2003's Love Actually, and that one got better reviews than this movie. See, I can believe that Richard Curtis, who also wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, had a genuine story to tell about love in its myriad forms, as experienced by a variety of characters. But Valentine's Day comes across as a naked cash-grab, offering nothing more than star power and shallow sentimentality. Oh, and a whole grab-bag of cliches and contrivances too.

Now, I don't believe that - like some of the reviews have said - this movie has too many characters and too many stories, leaving all of them undeveloped. I believe that all these characters and all these stories could've worked if they weren't so lame. Take Reed and Julia, the story that takes up the most screentime. See, the movie employs this conceit that everything takes place within Valentine's Day, and somehow neither director Garry Marshall nor screenwriter Katherine Fugate ever realised this was a bad idea. Reed proposes to his girlfriend, gets dumped by her, then falls for his longtime close friend, all within a day. Normal people don't behave this way; those who do are called raging drama queens. (Love Actually was smart enough to space its timeline out over a few weeks.)

Then there's Liz and Jason. I am unfamiliar with the working practices of the "adult phone entertainment" industry, but if you're gonna work in it and hold a day job and go out on dates, shouldn't you learn a little goddamn time management? And then there's Kara and Kelvin. The former is a neurotic workaholic who's never been able to find a date for Valentine's day, and she's played by Jessica Freaking Biel. Her "romance" with Kelvin is the laziest-written thing in the whole movie; they fall for each other due to nothing more than accidental physical proximity. Estelle and Edgar are the senior citizens of the movie, so they spend much of their time being wise and kindly to the young 'uns - then Estelle tells Edgar her deep dark secret, for literally no reason other than they need some drama to justify their presence.

Wait, there's more! At one point, Edison - the little kid - goes to Reed's shop to buy flowers. He points to a bouquet that's clearly tagged 55 dollars, then attempts to pay for it with what looks like the contents of his piggy bank that only amounts to 13 bucks. Is he retarded? Can he not read and/or count? No, the point of this is that it's supposed to be cute when Reed lets the kid shortchange him in the spirit of goddamn Valentine's Day. The manager of a high-class restaurant allows a friend to pose as a waitress and terrorize a customer, in the name of revenge over infidelity. A couple reconcile and declare their love in front of a crowd, who subsequently applaud. And towards the end there is a synchronized dance scene.

Sigh. It sounds like I'm just nitpicking, doesn't it? I just don't know how else to convey how lame this movie is, if not by listing down as many of its lamenessities as I can remember. But there are some good bits. Some of the dialogue is clever. Some of the performances are enjoyable; Taylor Swift has fun playing a ditzy teenager, which may be a dig at her public image. At least one of the stories, the Holden and Kate on a plane one, ends unexpectedly. And it is reasonably clever how all these characters are interconnected in some way. Once again, this didn't have to be a lousy movie. Better writing and better direction could've made this a good ensemble romantic comedy that all takes place within one Valentine's Day.

But no, Marshall and Fugate simply didn't bother. Y'know what this movie reminds me of? A Hong Kong CNY "hor sui pin". You got your star-studded cast. You got the actors spoofing their previous movies: Taylor Lautner jokes about taking his shirt off, Jamie Foxx plays a piano, and Julia Roberts mentions shopping on Rodeo Drive during the end-credits outtakes. You got end-credits outtakes. And above all, you got a director and writer who think all the above is all you need to make a movie that'll pack 'em in. But it shouldn't, guys, it really shouldn't. If this time of the year makes you feel like watching a romantic movie with a special someone, there are better choices. Watching Valentine's Day for Valentine's Day just because it's called Valentine's Day is like pouring shit all over your sundae just because it's brown.

NEXT REVIEW: True Legend
Expectations: it's Yuen Woo-ping, how bad can it be?


Ken Wooi said...

interesting. i havent watched it yet.. =P