Valentine’s Day works where so many romantic comedies in general fail because it doesn’t offer some idealized look at love, but shows the power of it — warts and all — from a variety of perspectives.
There’s the high school sweethearts (Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner), the new couple just weeks into their relationship (Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace) to a couple who’ve been together for decades (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine) to the jaded, bitter single (Jessica Biel).
It doesn’t hurt that Director Gary Marshall has such an attractive all-star cast to work with and part of the fun in these massive ensembles is seeing how these various subplots connect.
Katherine Fugate’s script doesn’t disappoint with inspired pairings like Reed (Ashton Kutcher), a florist who revels in the uplifted spirits of everyone on his favorite holiday — even more so since his girlfriend, Morley (Jessica Alba, The Love Guru [Blu-ray] [Blu-ray] (2008)) accepted his proposal, much to the surprise of his business partner, Alphonso (George Lopez), and pretty much everyone else that knows their relationship.
Others like sportscaster Kelvin (Jamie Foxx, Law Abiding Citizen (Unrated Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray]) think the day is a made-up “holiday” forcing guys to spend money on their significant other while Kara (Biel, Next [Blu-ray]) throws a big anti-Valentine’s Day event to “celebrate” the occasion complete with heart piñata. Biel’s subplot is a stretch as we’re supposed to believe she would have trouble finding dates on any day let alone Valentine’s Day? Foxx and Biel play up the chemistry they
The Hathaway and Grace subplot is the one most negatively impacted by the film’s shared space format as their pairing would have made the more ideal standalone romantic comedy than the limited silly characters they’re given here.
My favorite arc is Jennifer Garner’s Julia, a schoolteacher seeking a deeper commitment from her boyfriend, Harrison (Patrick Dempsey), who is not ready to settle down and how it ultimately connects to her best friend Reed and one of her students. It wraps up a bit too tidy, but it’s a movie set on Valentine’s Day so what’s the point of questioning a little nonsensical romance?
Marshall never seems overwhelmed keeping up with the various subplots and has a good sense of when to move on to the next one. The pacing is solid and the characters rarely outstay their welcome.
It helps that the scenarios, while entertaining are never so outlandish as to be preposterously unrealistic. It’s a romantic comedy so you’ve gotta expect some ridiculous coincidences to work out so everyone can have a happy ending.
The actors have a good sense of their characters and despite the limited screen time, give them enough depth so they’re not stock characters like “the funny one” or “the jaded, cynical one.”
Just like true love, a good romantic comedy is hard to find, but Valentine’s Day is sure to be one of those romantic comedy classics that will become a tradition this time of year for many years to come.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10