If you are choosing to see a movie with the title ""Valentine's Day,"" you have to be aware of the quality that you can expect from it. This star-studded chick flick, directed by Garry Marshall, opened in a transparently opportunistic fashion, just in time for the holiday of the same name. When watched with low expectations and a complete detachment from reality, the film offers exactly what it promises to provide—a superficial distraction from the concept of real life without any lingering impression.
""Valentine's Day"" follows—depending on which pairs you deem worth counting—nine entwined couples as they struggle with the harsh pressures and passing joys of Valentine's Day. A florist (Ashton Kutcher) proposes to his lovely but empty girlfriend (Jessica Alba) on the morning of Feb. 14. A mailroom guy (Topher Grace) struggles to understand his new fling (Anne Hathaway), whose night job is a bit more scandalous than her daytime receptionist position. We watch a surgeon (Patrick Dempsey, who seems comfortable remaining in his fake-doctor shoes) cheat on his wife with an innocently oblivious Jennifer Garner. Another story features an elderly couple (Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine) struggling with past mistakes. On top of all that, the audience is graced with appearances by Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Julia Roberts, Emma Roberts, George Lopez and an annoying cameo featuring Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift playing thinly veiled versions of themselves. If the many names and parentheses in the above paragraph send you into a state of confusion, the movie itself does not offer any more clarity.
""Valentine's Day"" invokes obvious comparisons to 2003's ""Love Actually,"" but where that movie stood out in the romantic comedy genre with its ensemble cast of accomplished British actors and developed story lines, 2010's American version fails to generate any real sentiment. There are too many stories and not enough time for the audience to develop even minimal attachment to the characters. The film feels like two hours worth of cameos, ranging from superstars you wish were in the movie more (Julia Roberts) to superstars you wish would show up less (Taylor Swift). Characters are on-screen so infrequently that you never get to know them. It feels more like you are watching the movie stars than the characters they are portraying.
Despite its shortcomings, however, there are engaging moments that are frequent enough to keep you entertained. Bradley Cooper is surprisingly enjoyable as Julia Roberts' seatmate on a 14-hour flight. Jessica Biel's ""I Hate Valentine's Day"" party is amusing and refreshing, even if her character winds up in the same sappy boat as everyone else. If you go into this movie wanting some cinematic masterpiece of enlightenment and reflection, you will go home disappointed. If you go in wanting to be mindlessly entertained, it will serve its harmless purpose just fine. The movie is wholly as good as the holiday it is named after: fleeting, meaningless and ultimately created to empty our wallets.