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Philly2Philly Reviews Valentine's Day

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With names like Biel, Roberts and everyone in between, Valentine's Day  features an ensemble cast to end all ensemble casts. But is the movie any good? Valentine's Day Movie Review

Valentine's Day is the epitome of safe date night fare. The movie has enough broad drama and effective comedy to appeal to everyone. The cast runs the gamut from high school to senior citizen, so the target audience is massive. Finally, though it's essentially a chick flick, there is nothing here that's inclined to make anyone of the male sex gag. Translation? Yeah, this movie is going to make a ton of money.

This is basically an inferior, American version of the excellent British dramedy Love Actually. Valentine’s Day offers a brief glimpse into the lives of LA's finest as they fall in and out of love on this infamous faux holiday. I'd be hard pressed to identify anyone as a main character, but the film does seem to revolve somewhat around Julia (Jennifer Garner) and Reed (Ashton Kutcher), two best friends who have recent relationship developments in their lives. Reed, a local florist, has just proposed to his career oriented girlfriend (Jessica Alba), who takes the news in a less than enthusiastic way. Julia, meanwhile, has fallen for a doctor (Patrick Dempsey) who, unbeknownst to her, is married.

Elsewhere, two senior citizens Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle ( Shirley MacLaine) find themselves in an interesting pickle when one of them makes a dramatic reveal. Their nanny, Grace (Emma Roberts) is convinced that she's going to lose her virginity to her high school sweetheart. Edison (Bryce Robinson) is dead set in sending roses and cards to the most beautiful girl in the school. A woman, on leave from the service (Julia Roberts) strikes up a friendly conversation with her seat mate (Bradley Cooper). An attractive pro football player contemplates a big decision that will affect his life and career. Downtown, a mail room worker from the Midwest (Topher Grace) falls for an actress who doubles as a phone sex operator. Finally, an insanely neurotic publicist (Jessica Biel) plans her annual "I hate Valentine's Day" dinner only to find out no one is interested in attending this year.

There's a whole lot of cast to cram into the two hour running time of Valentine's Day, but none of their stories are terribly deep. This helps Director Gary Marshall's  approach, which is one of a fluffy, feel good nature. He keeps things entertaining enough to pass the time, and executes some nice comic moments here and there. Of course on the flip side, he can't seem to connect the film correctly, which eventually feels like 500 short stories that aren't edited or interwoven properly. This is also the fault of a thin script, which more often than not doesn't have much to say when some of these characters are on screen. The result is a film that gets by on engaging performances and Marshall's breezy direction.

Speaking of the actors, most of them are engaging here, none of them really remarkable. Veteran and romantic comedy pro (Julia) Roberts has a very nice turn as a dispatched Army officer, given the limited screen time. Both Kutcher and Garner are buoyant, bright persona's who bring charm and warmth to spare. Garner particularly has a great moment of comic rage in the climax. Jessica Biel is also very funny as the neurotic, self hating single girl. On the bad side of things, the gorgeous and talented Hathaway doesn't manage to generate much interest, and a bland Grace follows suit.

Valentine's Day is a generally flat experience, but it's not a bad one. It offers few surprises, but it delivers, just not exceptionally. It captures the warm and fuzzy feeling of love, offers a few laughs and maybe a touching moment or two. That's all that can be expected from a movie like this. Really, you could do a whole lot worse than spending a few hours checking out this film with a loved one.

contact Jim Teti at itetmij@gmail.com

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