Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day
Starring: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley McClain, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift
Directed by: Garry Marshall
Written by: Katherine Fugate
Released by: New Line Cinema
Run time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Despite being widely panned by critics, I found Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day to be a breath of fresh air. Not relying on low humor for easy laughs, a group of well-known names live up to the media hype surrounding Marshall’s return to the big screen by portraying love in a grown up and charming way. Running eight concurrent plot lines surrounding the idea of love, Marshall and writer Katherine Fugate ultimately weave them together into a larger connection meant only for the viewer to understand.
Comparable to Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003), Valentine’s Day follows love in Los Angeles and the different ways people love one another. Old love, new love, young love, high school love, love between best friends, or love between a mother and son, the film is sprinkled with tiny plot surprises that jump out of nowhere and pull at your heart strings.
Of the many story threads, my favorite was probably Ashton Kutcher as a flower shop owner and Jennifer Garner, an elementary school teacher. Their hapless tale was not only the most developed, but the most believable of the bunch. Also turning in a moving performance was Julia Roberts, who plays a soldier visiting home for the holiday. Though she has less than 10 minutes of screen time, her story is sure to warm the coldest of hearts.
Not every performance was a winner. Jessica Alba’s stay was mercifully brief as Kutcher’s estranged girlfriend, and Queen Latifah was disappointing as the overbearing, mean-spirited boss of sex worker Anne Hathaway. Latifah is talented and has knocked more complex roles out the park, but this time it just didn’t work out.
Other critical reviews took Valentine’s Day to task for themes of racism and homophobia, but I don’t think I would have noticed them had they not been pointed out, and am not convinced this was the intent. The scene with two men sharing an intimate moment was charming and tasteful, and the ethnic diversity of the Los Angeles metro area was duly inclusive.
All in all, Valentine’s Day was worth the price of admission and will probably be added to my DVD collection in a few months. It felt like a warm bowl of chicken soup on a winter day, and still has me floating in a happy-go-lucky mood. Bring your lover, bring your child, bring your mother, bring a friend and a box of tissues. The critics may have knocked it, but if you can set aside a bias toward well-developed story lines it will leave your heart happy.