Where’s the chocolate — and the pink — in the latest lazy romanticomedy?
1.5 out of 5 Stars
with Eric Dane, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, Queen Latifah.
120 mins. PG-13. Playing in wide release
Valentine’s Day wants you to think it’s a movie about love, but really, it’s a movie about movie-love. You know the kind: where handsome, straight, white people — whose biggest problem seems to be realizing that they are too beautiful and will never suffer from bedhead — worry themselves sick whether other beautiful people will ever find a way to love them. There’s about as much suspense as whether New Orleans will be hosting any parties this week.
Which is not to say it does not fill an essential niche: The palatable date movie. It’s an innocuous, sprawling portmanteau, with eight slightly intersecting romances unfolding on one highly improbable Feb. 14. Without coincidence, the film is nothing, and even with it, it’s nothing much. But there it is still, on 3,400 screens, begging you to hunker down and pony up some money in the name of getting laid this weekend.
While virtually all of the actors are young, straight Caucasians — it’s hard to seriously think of Jessica Alba as Latina when she bleaches her hair down to the eyebrows (she’s like a more masculine version of Michael Jackson) — there is a gratuitous gay subplot … and therein lies one of the many, many reasons to dislike Valentine’s Day.
The subplot, about an NFL quarterback (Eric Dane) who decides to come out, seems only tangentially related to the Valentine theme, unless you know the surprise reveal when you learn who his boyfriend is. But it comes off as gimmicky, not only because the twist comes in the waning seconds of the film, but also because, of all the couples in the film, the gays are the only ones not allowed to kiss onscreen. Even the presence of Queen Latifah fails to up the queer quotient (especially after a tacky joke by Jamie Foxx’s character about the quarterback).
On the other hand, it’s difficult to get too worked up about a generic piece of Hollywood pabulum that thinks "diversity" equals one old but randy couple and relegating the one black guy in the cast to a tacked-on relationship. If you go for any reason beyond satisfying a weird curiosity about seeing Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner and the Taylors (Lautner and Swift) in the same movie, stay home and rent Much Ado About Nothing instead. Valentine’s Day is often built up too much only to result in disappointing — that applies to both the holiday and the movie.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.