Love. Chocolates. Big extravagant dinners. Finding out how to impress that hot date of yours. Many people think about these elements when Valentine’s Day starts to creep up on us. This is also the chance for Hollywood to release theme movies. We had Hitch, which was a huge hit with couples around this romantic holiday, then we had He’s Just Not That Into You, which hit positive notes with a lot of young lovers, and now we have Gary Marshall’s Valentine’s Day. A movie that knows it has an all-star cast and knows it’s going to make a boatload of money. Valentine’s Day is a series of eye-rollingly cheesy scenes of mush but, you know what, it’s sweeter than any candy heart and the film somehow pulls it off.
Valentine’s Day follows different couples of various ages and different ethnicities and how everyone has different feelings about the holiday. We have Reed Bennett, played by Ashton Kutcher, who, after waiting a significant amount of time, proposes to his girlfriend, Morley, played by Jessica Alba. As Reed celebrates his successful proposal, we meet Julia, played by Jennifer Garner, who has been intimate with a certain doctor, played by Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey, who may or may not be faithful to her. We meet Jason, played by Topher Grace, who forgets it’s even Valentine’s Day and then tries to decipher what gift would suit the so far short relationship with his girlfriend, played by Anne Hathaway. Then, there’s a friendship that grows on a plane between characters played by Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts which will be very significant to this story and then there’s a love story about honesty between an older couple with characters played by Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine, and THEN there is a story about a football player, played by Eric “McSteamy” Dane who may or may not be looking for love while balancing his career, however, on this day, he does get into a car accident with Reed’s co-worker Alphonso, played by George Lopez, which may or may not be meaningful to the story and, here’s the kicker, these stories within the film’s story are just half of what the audience follows when viewing Valentine’s Day.
As you can tell by the synopsis, there’s an awful lot going on in this film. In fact, there’s so much going on, that the film isn’t given a lot of time to immerse in any of the stories to gain any deep character or story development whatsoever. What we get are a series of sub-plots that would work well on a 22 minute sitcom. Katherine Fugate, who penned the screenplay, knows how to develop a beginning, middle, and an end, however, since she has crow-bared an abundant amount of content into the film, she doesn’t have time to make these characters believable and, therefore, an audience can never fully care for these characters presented. However, even though Fugate has fallen into this trap, the stories are never boring and they do transition well from one another while making the audience laugh. The story involving Reed, Morley, and Julia is by far the most interesting one told. Ashton Kutcher, in his strongest comedic role yet, is very sweet and charismatic as Reed and is able to convey compassion well when he finds out more about Julia’s love life. His character is the one, if not the only, character the audience really roots for. However, for every story that works, there are stories that fall flat for the most part. For instance, there’s a story between an air headed school girl, played by Taylor Swift, and a sensitive jock, played by Taylor Lautner, that I think could’ve been more funny and charming if the time was given to develop their characters more. There is a very funny scene where the two teens are being interviewed for a Valentine’s Day news segment that shows just how much potential this story had. Hopefully, in the future, Fugate allows herself time to develop her characters more instead of making a world record for most underdeveloped characters in a motion picture; it’s about quality, not quantity.
Even though the script is filled with development faults, these faults are almost overlooked due to the sweetness director Gary Marshall delivers. From the first moments of the film to the last line, the film is insanely cheesy and over-the-top. However, this was probably the best decision the film makes. Instead of lollygagging and wanting to be fun yet serious about its subject matter, it seems that Marshall knows exactly what he’s dealing with and knows the audience he wants to grab and, thus, decides to go to excessive amounts to bring the gooey sentimental level to the limit and beyond. Do you know that feeling when you’re grandfather would tell you a really, old cheesy joke? You would shake your head and roll your eyes but you would laugh and have a big, goofy smile on your face. I had that big goofy smile on my face throughout Valenine’s Day’s runtime. It is so sweet, that you end up taking in all of it’s sugary sentimentality and have a good time. Marshall is able to direct his actors and extras successfully in order for them to all hit the same corny peaks and he is able to capture the romance in the Los Angeles air by creating a very cloying mood. What could’ve been a train-wreck in another, less experienced director’s hands is syrupy fun in Marshall’s grasp.
All in all, Valentine’s Day shouldn’t work. With a script that bites off way more than it can chew and a very cavity inducing, sentimental feel throughout, the film sounds like a disaster. However, Marshall creates a romantic monster where the audience is actually magnetized by the film’s sentimentality and can revel in the cheesiness. Please excuse this lame analogy but I find it works in this situation. We all like eating crackers, right? Well, every once in a while, we sprinkle cheese on top of our snack. What do we do with that extra left over cheese? We stack it all on that one last cracker and doesn’t it taste good? We shouldn’t like it but it just tastes really good. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m that cheese-ball grandfather and Marshall won me over.