Valentine's Day in Los Angeles brings a series of romantic crises. A flower seller (Kutcher) has proposed to his less-than-keen girlfriend (Alba), then discovers his best friend's (Garner) boyfriend (Dempsey) is married. A phone-sex operator (Hathaway) is afraid to tell her boyfriend (Grace) what she does for a living. An romance-hating publicist (Biel) is helping her client (Dane) manage a media storm. A group of teens (Swift, Lautner, Roberts and Jenkins) are grappling with chastity. And two strangers (Roberts and Cooper) strike up a conversation on a trans-Atlantic flight.
The script is remarkably tight--and hugely contrived--in the way it draws these people together to tell each little story as a self-contained rom-com. In many ways, this is an American variation on Love Actually, although it's even less edgy and honest, if that's possible. Still, several of the stories and characters engage us through writing and performances that hint at a better movie than this.
After his initial goofiness, Kutcher becomes the heart of the film, and carries some strong scenes with Alba, Garner and Robinson (as a young boy with a hopeless crush). The Hathaway-Grace story is the film's best mix of realistic comedy and drama, although the final resolution is corny. The funniest scene is a Larry Miller cameo. And it's nice that MacLaine and Elizondo are in the mix as an established couple even if their plotline strains credibility.
Less developed is Biel's story, which involves Dane as well as Foxx (as a TV journalist) and Latifah (as an agent). And the teenage strand is both silly and preachy, although the actors are extremely watchable. While the Roberts-Cooper sequences feel irrelevant, they're nicely underplayed (of course they tie in later). And you have to feel sorry for Dempsey, stuck with the film's only nasty character.
This is one of those films that's unapologetically cute and schmaltzy from the start. Marshall directs it with a shiny, bland energy that makes it easy to watch. It never gets remotely naughty, although it pretends like it does. And every plotline is deeply predictable and moralistic. But with all of these plots, plus a random Bollywood number, you simply won't care.
Run time: 125 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th February 2010
Box Office USA: $110.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $213.8M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 151
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Garry Marshall
Screenwriter: Katherine Fugate
Starring: Jessica Alba as Morley Clarkson, Jessica Biel as Kara Monahan, Bradley Cooper as Holden, Eric Dane as Sean Jackson, Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Harrison Copeland, Héctor Elizondo as Edgar, Jamie Foxx as Kelvin Moore, Jennifer Garner as Julia Fitzpatrick, Topher Grace as Jason, Anne Hathaway as Liz, Carter Jenkins as Alex, Ashton Kutcher as Reed Bennett, Queen Latifah as Paula Thomas, George Lopez as Alphonso, Shirley MacLaine as Estelle, Emma Roberts as Grace, Julia Roberts as Captain Kate Hazeltine, Taylor Lautner as Willy, Kathy Bates as Susan, Taylor Swift as Felicia, Derek Theler as Masseuse, Katherine LaNasa as Pamela Copeland
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