Note to Garry Marshall: Back in 1991 you made Frankie and Johnny. It’s probably the best movie you ever made. It certainly contains one of the most deliriously romantic moments ever committed to film—involving the door on a flower truck opening behind the main characters when they kiss. You evoke this scene at a flower market early on in your new movie Valentine’s Day. Really, the last thing you want to do when making a pig’s bladder of a picture like Valentine’s Day is remind viewers of a far better film. Your cameo appearance and the in-joke about your involvement with The Odd Couple TV series were much more in tune with the tone of the film at hand.
Valentine’s Day—which handily took the weekend box office thanks in no small part to its timing—is really little more than a poorly conceived American processed-cheese version of Love Actually (2005), insisting we believe Ashton Kutcher is an acceptable replacement for Hugh Grant. Unless you’re blind, deaf and extremely intoxicated, you probably realize that Kutcher is an acceptable replacement for Seann William Scott, but the line stops there. Theoretically, the film is an ensemble piece and has no central characters, but the story line that is the most developed involves Kutcher, his engagement to transparently unenthused girlfriend (Jessica Alba), his problem with his best friend (Jennifer Garner) and her affair with an obviously duplicitous doctor (Patrick Dempsey).
The best thing I can say about the film is that I didn’t hate sitting through the screening and I seem to have suffered no ill effects from exposure to it. Anne Hathaway—as a young lady trying to balance a temp secretarial job, a new boyfriend (Topher Grace) and a gig as a phone-sex performer—seems to be having the best time. Most of the cast seems to be mildly distracted, perhaps concentrating on what they’ll do with their not inconsiderable paychecks. Rumor has it that Julia Roberts got $3 million for about six minutes of screen time. That’s $500,000 a minute. I sat through all 125 minutes of this thing and, I assure you, will see nothing like that kind of remuneration.
The basic problem with the film lies in Katherine Fugate’s screenplay (a case could be made that no one who wrote even a single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess should ever be allowed to write again). She not only steals with shameless abandon from Love Actually (set pieces and plot devices alike), but she seems to think that all the prefab sentiment found in Valentine’s Day is surprising and fresh. Her best friends really ought to tell her otherwise. Rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity.