Valentine's Day: BOMB (out of 4)
There were few bright spots as I was forced to sit through Valentine's Day last night. The best I came up with was finding ways to make the movie better - perhaps an impossible task, but hey, I was really stretching. I came up with two reasonable ideas:
We have both McDreamy and McSteamy (from Grey's Anatomy - no, I don't know their real names [yes, I watched that show for too long]) in this movie; why don't we hook them up? That'd be awesome!
When Julia Roberts is returning to her seat on the plane to L.A., there's a significant amount of unexplained turbulence. Can we please crash the plane into the city and kill everybody involved? A mix of Escape from LA and Magnolia would be significant step up...
But no. This was a movie of romantic comedy clichés, not subversion slash or disaster movies. The most subversive element was an Indian Shotgun Wedding; the most disastrous element was the waste of good talent. And so I was left with one of the most painful pieces of film I've seen in years.
Valentine's Day's premise - "how many A- and B-list actors can we fit in a romantic comedy?" - clearly overrode any other considerations that the creators might have come up with. The movie of a dozen or so five-minute romantic comedies stuffed together and loosely connected by a ten-minute romantic comedy. Each of these plots wastes two or more talented and/or popular actors, who only have their looks and/or reputation to rely upon to display a character. Only one of the plots involves anything even vaguely unpredictable; none of the characters go through anything resembling character growth, most don't even show much personality in the first place, a few "plots" never even have a plot introduced, and a couple (Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah) don't even have an associated love interest. It was almost as if they came into the game too late, and just needed to be stuffed in somehow.
The movie's implementation was nearly as bad. The movie jumped frenetically from plotline to plotline, introducing secondary characters from time to time that were more interesting than the main plots. Romantic comedy clichés were generally elided to save time; given that there was no other plot, this was especially egregious. Thematic integration points between the sub-plots were ignored. Any visual themes that might have been interesting in a longer movie were lost by being caught up in the sheer mess that was playing elsewhere. And the writing... dear Gods, the writing...
Interestingly, it was the fact checking that I found the most egregiously bad. Perhaps a minor point for most people, it bothered me that nobody looked at a calendar and spotted the fact that Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year. This movie clearly takes place in 2010, and more clearly takes place on a weekday (there are kids in school, work is in session, etc). Perhaps it's just that I know that things would have had to change if the movie had been in a different year, but...
Romance? Oddly, I'd argue there wasn't any. There were break-ups; there was the occasional realization that two characters "had always been in love"; and there were Grand Revelations. Past that, we merely had the time to glimpse people that were, purported, already in love.
Comedy? I could swear that some of the audience (made up of 70% teenage girls) laughed a couple of times, but I honestly couldn't tell you when that happened. I certainly didn't laugh, or gasp, or respond with some low kind of pity.
Was there anything worthwhile? Well, I saw it with a dear friend; that was nice. And while she didn't hate the movie as much as I did, she also didn't get upset when I ranted about it on the way back. Score one for Eva.
Yeah, that's about it. Avoid this movie.
* - or, more accurately, BOMB
Postscript 1: I suppose that it's fair to point out that I am not a fan of romantic comedies, and that my score probably reflects this. In my defense, there are definitely romantic comedies that I respect and, shockingly, even like - Love, Actually comes to mind. This movie, however, was an embarrassment.
Postscript 2: when the trailers come on, I highly recommend closing your eyes and ears for Date Night, the vehicle for Tina Fey and Steve Carell. The movie's only chance might be surprise as to the premise; and the trailer ruined that for me.