Rating: * *
Verdict: Love Actually's poor American cousin.
A disappointingly bland romantic comedy, Valentine's Day boasts an ensemble cast, featuring what seems to be half of Hollywood including a number of Oscar winners, a few funny moments and a couple of cheeky surprises.
Unashamedly a cute chick flick (an observation confirmed by the two men snoring around me) from Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall, this is a film relying solely on the charm of its esteemed cast. Beyond this star-studded facade though, Valentine's Day is a pointless film, somehow failing to produce a single insightful, original, or interesting observation on love.
Set in Los Angeles, 10 separate love stories play out over the duration of Valentine's Day; several of these story strands are inter-related, the rest are left to tediously or serendipitously come together.
There is the boyish florist (Ashton Kutcher) who proposes to his career-minded girlfriend (Jessica Alba), and his best friend (Jennifer Garner) who is dating a sleaze (Patrick Dempsey). There is the young kid (Bryce Robinson) who is in love with this best friend and who is looked after by his grandparents (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine) who've hit a snag in their long marriage. Also having relationship problems is his 18-year-old babysitter (Emma Roberts) who is planning on having sex with her boyfriend (Carter Jenkins), encouraged by their best friends at high school (Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner).
If that's not exhausting enough, there's the pro football player (Eric Dane) contemplating his future, and his neurotic publicist (Jessica Biel) who dreads Valentine's Day, something she finds she has in common with an ambitious sports reporter (Jamie Foxx).
There's also a young receptionist (Anne Hathaway) who supplements her income performing phone sex and her sweet new boyfriend (Topher Grace). To top it off there are even a couple of strangers on a plane (Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper). Phew.
It's a fabulous cast, but those with the most screen time also get the most predictable roles (Kutcher and Garner), while those whose stories are simpler and shorter have more impact (Roberts and Cooper). One or two performances manage to come completely out of left field and are actually entertaining, such as Taylor Swift as the ditsy Valley girl, and Hathaway, who it turns out has a talent for foreign accents and talking dirty.
So it's a bit of a mess, with plot holes and a host of shallow, underdeveloped characters preventing this rom-com from being a decent piece of escapism.
The lesson is that you can pack a film with stars and cram in as many stories as you like but none of it matters when you're dealing strictly in cliches.
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner
Director: Garry Marshall
Running time: 124 mins
Rating: M (sexual references)