Let’s cut to the chase. Valentine’s Day isn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a bad ’80s sitcom starring the cast of Us Weekly. Compared with this film, The Ugly Truth is Tracy and Hepburn, and He’s Just Not That Into You is Strindberg. Indifferently directed by Garry Marshall and incompetently written by Katherine Fugate, V-Day is mainly interesting for the chance it offers to see stars doing something besides posing on red carpets. In the case of the Taylors (Swift and Lautner), two kids who seem sweet but perhaps not born with the thespian gene, the results are supremely goofy. Everyone else just delivers a paycheck performance.
Why bother to summarize the numerous interconnected plots? In keeping with our romance theme, I present them as a series of personal ads:
SWF, gym-chiseled, 25, workaholic with chocolate problem (Jessica Biel), seeks loyal friends to join her in publicly hating on Valentine’s Day. Bring booze and bitterness. Hot single male workaholics (Jamie Foxx) always welcome. Just don’t ask how a girl who looks like a Maxim model ended up so alone.
WM, ripped, busy florist and self-admitted “romantic moron” (Ashton Kutcher) is writing this just for his honey (Jessica Alba). You’ve always seemed out of my league, so I’m gonna propose to you on V-day, baby! Please don’t hide the rock from your coworkers. I’m begging you. Your contempt for me is palpable, but we can make this work.
SWM, way under 18 (Bryce Robinson), is Hot for Teacher. But in a romantic way! Please try to find this subplot cute instead of cringeworthy.
I Spy an angular beauty (Jennifer Garner) dating a dreamy doctor (Patrick Dempsey) who’s suspiciously perfect. Watch out, girlfriend! The true love you seek may be as close as the florist’s shop where you inexplicably spend your free time.
Hunky quarterback (Eric Dane) at career crossroads seeks romance-related plot twist that may seem daring and edgy to people who haven’t been exposed to American pop culture since the demise of “Bewitched.”
Fresh-faced starlet (Emma Roberts) is ISO agent to secure her a career like Aunt Julia’s. No more roles as a horny high school girl who Learns a Life Lesson, please!
Character actors who are middle-aged, stocky and/or “ethnic” (Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah, George Lopez) seek something to offer big-budget ensemble film other than (a) earthy advice for pretty white kids with problems and (b) comic relief.
I Spy a handsome devil (Bradley Cooper). I was your flight attendant on the February 14 flight to LAX from Somewhere Overseas. You wanted me to think you were having blistering sexual tension with that camo-clad servicewoman (Julia Roberts) who was your seatmate, but neither of you was fooling anybody. And if you think your smirky banter was entertaining to your captive audience, well, think again.
I Spy Matthew Walker, the guy who delivered the closest thing to a genuine laugh line in Valentine’s Day. You played the geeky TV-station underling who takes B-roll for sports reporter Foxx when he runs off on important plot business. Thanks, Matt, for reminding us even bad movies help support hardworking Hollywood craftspeople. Next V-day, let’s all spread our love beyond the A-List.
>Running Time: 125 minutes