Valentine’s Day: The Title Says it All

By Matthieu Decker

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Trailer: Valentine’s Day

Chances are, if you are considering seeing “Valentine’s Day,” you probably have a pretty good idea of how the film will play out.

Considering the fare generally associated with a V-day weekend release, it takes no great stretch of the imagination to surmise what a film taking the holiday itself as its namesake will consist of: plenty of string quartets, forgive-me kisses, heart-shaped boxes and happy endings. With a film that boasts as impressive a cast as “Valentine’s Day,” one might expect it to surpass its inherent cliché, but even by the depressingly low standards which the romantic comedy genre has set for itself in recent years, “Valentine’s Day” is a thoughtless, passionless repetition of much more affecting love stories.

“Valentine’s Day” tries to be the end-all romantic comedy, attempting to weave the love lives of a number of loosely-connected characters into a cohesively uplifting testament to the power of love.

Instead, it comes off as an underdeveloped montage of storylines and scenes from other films, from the innocent little kid with his first crush, to the disillusioned workaholics who fall for each other, not to mention the obligatory airport scene. In trying to deliver as many heartwarming clichés as it possibly can, the movie follows about six such stories, giving several of them less than 10 minutes of total screen-time. This overload results in little chance for the actors to give any depth to their characters, and instead places a premium on the number of recognizable names written on the billboards advertising the film.

The film follows two main characters, played by Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher, who are portrayed from their first scene together as star-crossed lovers in a sickeningly obvious sense. Kutcher plays Reed, a flower salesman looking for a Valentine’s commitment. Garner plays Julia, a business woman whose surgeon boyfriend left her alone on Valentine’s Day to perform a surgery elsewhere.

They are the prototypical best friends whose love lives are cast into the wanton flailing of plot-driving conflict early on, and the dramatic inevitability of their situation grows more painfully obvious with each passing scene. Even with the disproportional screen time awarded to these two, they can’t manage to make either their individual characters or their relationship believable. Deep in contrived dialogue and utterly foreseeable turns of plot, any convincingly human aspects of the characters are lost in the blinding Hollywood veneer.

Each scene in “Valentine’s Day” comes off as more forced than the last. Once the novelty of seeing so many familiar faces in one film has worn off, there is little left to keep the viewer’s attention. Watching Jamie Foxx serve a dish of Valentine’s cynicism is initially hilarious, but the yoke of the arbitrary plot forces his character, and the rest, to undergo changes of heart without even two minutes of intervening screen time.

With such talent the film had to work with, “Valentine’s Day” could have been a tolerable romance flick to entertain the sappy side of any couple with minimal effort. All that would be required is trimming it down to one well-told story, rather than a convention of confused plots.

Instead, “Valentine’s Day” is an incoherent stream of cliché, which doesn’t merit being seen as light fare to bring you and your significant other into the romantic spirit.

Matthieu Decker can be reached at [email protected]