x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Valentine's Day

A clichéd but sweet collection of interlocking stories that is like to disappear once the holiday has passed.

Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher in Valentine's Day.
Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher in Valentine's Day.


Ashton Kutcher shines in this likeable romcom that takes place over the course of a single February 14 in Los Angeles. That's quite a compliment for Mr Demi Moore, considering this ensemble cast reads like a who's who of Hollywood. Like Richard Curtis's Love Actually, Valentine's Day tries to cover every possible permutation of love with its vast array of characters. They include romantics (Kutcher and Jennifer Garner), unbelievers (Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel), those in the throes of first love (Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner), an old married couple (Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo) and, of course, a love rat (Patrick Dempsey).

As is typical of interlocking ensemble dramas, some threads work better than others. It starts and ends with the story that is the staple of John Hughes and most romcoms: the guy who is with the wrong girl and only begins to realise this during the course of the movie. Kutcher is a florist who starts the day by proposing to his girlfriend (Biel). The florist's best friend (Garner) is a teacher who doesn't realise that the doctor she is involved with (Dempsey) is married. When the doctor comes in to the florist to order two sets of roses, one for his wife and the other for his mistress, Kutcher is faced with the task of trying to mend his best friend's heart.

All the storylines are cliché-ridden and the ones that work the least are those involving the younger members of the cast, from the high school shenanigans of teenage girls and boys, to the saccharine efforts of a child (Bryce Robinson) trying to get flowers delivered to his school. In contrast, the actors who play their roles with their tongue firmly in their cheek excel. Foxx has a lot of fun as a sport reporter, while Alba is engaging as a publicist who organises an anti-Valentine's Day dinner every year. Eric Dane is also amusing as the American football star reaching the end of his career.

The director Garry Marshall calls upon his Pretty Woman star, Julia Roberts, for an intriguing cameo in which she spends the movie sitting next to Bradley Cooper on a flight. They're probably the only characters who resemble real people rather than cardboard cut-outs and they are pivotal in the neat way that all the stories are tied up in the denouement. After a rocky opening, Valentine's Day wins you over with its final act, especially when the lesser stories are discarded in favour of seeing the florist get the girl of his dreams. There is even a hilarious joke from Roberts about Pretty Woman to look forward to in the end credits.