| With its blatantly obvious date-specific title, this movie offers snippets of various forms of love and romance across three generations. Designed to resoundingly win the box office this holiday weekend, it is the movie equivalent of Chinese food. It will satisfy your appetite for entertainment, but will easily be forgotten a few hours later.
It fits somewhere in the middle of a scale between the superior “Love Actually” and the inferior “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Multiple intersecting vignettes unfold over the course of one particular Valentine’s Day in the City of Angels. The movie is directed by Garry Marshall (“The Princess Diaries,” “Pretty Woman” and “Runaway Bride”) from a screenplay by Katherine Fugate (“Army Wives”). The two-hour movie features a cavalcade of attractive stars shuffled on and off camera in perpetual rotation.
The fashion parade of beautiful women includes Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Emma and Julia Roberts, and Taylor Swift (in her acting debut). The handsome guys include Bradley Cooper, Eric “McSteamy” Dane, Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher and Taylor Lautner.
This corny, lightweight fluff piece is the equivalent of an extended television sitcom. It needs a laugh track since the jokes are few and far between. An emphasis is placed on the materialistic consumer aspect of spending greenbacks on flowers, jewelry, candy, cards and restaurants as ways to buy romantic affection rather than the deeper and more sincere emotion of love stemming from being struck by Cupid’s arrow.
The action revolves around Sienna Bouquet, a flower shop owned by Reed Bennett (Kutcher). His best friend, Julia (Garner), a grade school teacher, thinks she has found her perfect companion in a heart surgeon (Dempsey). Julia is invited to an I Hate Valentine’s Day party given by Kara (Biel), a publicist for a free agent quarterback (Dane), who reveals a secret about his private life at a press conference covered by a sports reporter (Foxx).
On a 14-hour airplane flight, Holden (Cooper) is intrigued by the identity of the person his Army captain seatmate (Julia Roberts) is going to meet during a short leave from active duty. Conservative Midwesterner Jason (Grace) is attracted to Liz (Hathaway), a fellow employee at the office. They have been dating for two weeks and things look promising. He is offended when he finds out that she moonlights as a phone sex operator.
A high school couple (Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins) plan to lose their virginity over the lunch hour. A hilarious scene involving a guitar is reminiscent of “American Pie.”
Classmates (Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner) display their goofy brand of love on a track oval.
Fifth-grader Edison (an adorable Bryce Robinson) has a crush on someone in his class and spends his allowance money on a bouquet of roses. His custodial grandparents (Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo) have been married 51 years. They are planning to renew their vows when one of them reveals details of an affair in the past.
Things go full circle when career-minded Morley (Alba) rejects Reed’s marriage proposal and returns the engagement ring after saying yes at the movie’s opening.
Despite being contrived and predictable, this crowd-pleaser is a perfect date movie for the under-35 age group. The movie cuts across generations from a childhood crush to teenage angst and old age in showing the sweet and messy sides of either approaching or avoiding love. The actors are willing to go out on a limb and make fools of themselves in embarrassing situations.
Some of the storyline strands work better than others. The movie proceeds at a brisk pace with an admirable job of editing the various pieces into a coherent whole. The soundtrack of love songs is sweet as molasses and get tiresome. Country music superstar Swift performs a new song, “Today Was a Fairytale,” that is sure to top the pop charts.
Shot in Los Angeles, the movie is a travelogue of famous landmarks including the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Flower Mart, the park under the Hollywood sign, Bob’s Big Boy and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where (as in real life) old movies are shown at night.
The ironic choice of close-ups from MacLaine’s 1958 “Hot Spell” contrast the then and now of this aging actress growing old gracefully.
The movie is full of surprises, concluding with the requisite Hollywood happy ending. Be sure to stay for the very funny blooper outtakes that play over the end credits.
Supporting cast members include Queen Latifah, Kathy Bates and George Lopez.
Confident that this will be a huge success with the estrogen set, screenwriter Fugate has already signed on for the sequel “New Year’s Eve” that will hopefully bring back these characters and add new ones to the mix.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"