Monday, 8 February 2010


Roadshow Films
Out February 11

When I saw the trailer for Valentine's Day whilst at another Roadshow screening, I made a mental note: a poor man's Love, Actually. After seeing the film, that assessment would only hold true if writer-director Richard Curtis had made the latter film without wit, humour or charm – and both eyes on the bottom line.

That would explain why Valentine's Day director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) has assembled a cast of stars – Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Alba – and put them at the mercy of a screenplay that hasn't an ounce of truth, let alone romance or laughs. The aim here is to appeal to as many demographics as possible, getting bums on seats and an impressive opening weekend take as a result.

As with Love, Actually there are multiple and intersecting storylines depicting people in various states of “love”. In Love, Actually the overriding theme was that love was wonderful but not so easy; in Valentine's Day the message seems to be that if you have no one on Valentine's Day you're a loser. One character who finds herself alone at the end of the eponymous day (all the action occurs over a 24 hour period) does so because she speaks honestly and makes a decision with her head and not her heart. The filmmakers see fit to punish her by sending her to a hotel with only her dog for company.

I'm not saying Love, Actually is a perfect film or even one without calculation, but for all its sunshine and lollipops there were also some unhappy truths; Emma Thompson and Laura Linney's storylines for instance. There's nothing the slightest bit believable in Valentine's Day, from the too-cute lovesick little boy (blatantly stolen from Love, Actually) to the gay couple (Do they kiss? Hell no!), and certainly nothing to give you pause for thought.

Am I being too harsh on a film that is supposed to be mere light entertainment? Perhaps but I don't think audiences will appreciate having to pay to see some of their favourite actors do next to nothing for two hours, especially when the film's best moments occur during the end credits.

Indeed, the film's best joke, concerning Julia Roberts and a certain film she made with Garry Marshall, comes at the very end. Much like suffering through a bad first date only to get a pleasant good night kiss, you may walk away with smile but you won't be inclined to think any more favourably of it or make a second date.

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