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STUDIO: New Line Cinema
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
- The stars confess their Valentine’s Day stories
- Commentary by director Garry Marshall
- The Garry factor
- Jewel “Stay Here Forever” music video
- Blooper reel
- Exclusive Sex and the City 2 sneak peek trailer
- Additional scenes
Garry Marshall tries to channel Robert Altman.
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Taylor Swift, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Alba, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher and others
Valentine’s Day is a film that Marshall has been directing in his sleep for years. A guy meets a girl who may or not be the one. Hector Elizondo shows up in a supporting role, while annoying pop music blares in the background. The ladies swoon and you’re left to wonder how in the hell is Patrick Dempsey still working in this day and age? Then, you notice the ladies. There’s something buried inside of that X chromosome that turns the romantic comedy into the pinnacle of cinematic excellence for them. I guess that men have some sort of equivalent buried in our genes. So, that’s why I guess I’m pissed that Bruce Campbell didn’t show up.
The ensemble picture has always been a feat that escapes even the most capable of directors. When it comes to director Garry Marshall, most genres tend to escape him. But, I do have to admit that Marshall has an uncanny knack at crafting the romantic comedy. The romantic comedy is such an easy feat, as it has been dumbed down into that goofy cousin of its related genres. During the Depression, we expected works from Capra and others to be highbrow works of love and laughs. Now, we settle for pop music interludes and images of small children kissing each other.
When you first take a look at the cast list, you wonder how Garry Marshall still has that legendary reach. But, when you create Mork and the Fonz…I guess the talent just follows you around. The script from TV vet Kathrine Fugate plays with the notion of Los Angeles as a giant pot of transplants desperately trying to craft a new home based on common familiars. But, what you see is a bunch of people bitching and moaning about the same crap. Everyone wants to be happy, be successful and fuck. They’re like Nicole Kidman at the end of Eyes Wide Shut, but without the emotional journey.
Anne Hathaway and Emma Roberts are so good in this, that they bring up my next issue with the film. The ensemble piece always falls apart when a small portion of your cast smokes the others in terms of performance. A lot of critics took potshots at Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner when the film first debuted near the start of the year. While it’s easy to lambast Miss Swift, she does the best with what she had. Expecting every young actress to knock it out of the park like Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls is a little ridiculous. Sometimes, a young girl is just meant to stand there and giggle.
Valentine’s Day was a marketing success, but there’s no personal value in a film like this. When you look at any of the storylines, it’s hard to say that you relate to anything onscreen. Going back to my original Hathaway and Roberts highlights, you’re still not getting anything special out of these characters. One of them wants to get laid before college, while the other one just wants her relationship to work out. Marshall treats each endeavor with no thought, as he plows through these storylines in a fevered attempt to make sure Point A leads to Point B. When seemingly questioned about his choices, he throws in a curveball. Julia Roberts is a military woman, Bradley Cooper and Eric Dane are gaybones for each other and so on.
film has brought a lot of comparisons to Love, Actually. But, people used to compare Piranha to Jaws. Any similarity is superficial at best, as Marshall and Fugate barely craft a workable tale. For those of you that have seen the film, think about it. What character in this work can you actually discuss in-depth? Outside of basic personality setups and introductions, there’s nothing but their end result. That right there is yet a larger problem of the common Romantic Comedy and I don’t want to throw it completely on Marshall’s shoulders. But, you can’t give a shit about world populated by 2-D assholes.
Going back to my brief note on Emma Roberts, I have to admire Marshall’s ability to work with his younger actors. The guy has had an eye for young talent for some time and he manages to get great performances. But, something happened about an hour into his prior work on Georgia Rule. Tarantino once said that certain directors aged to a point where he stopped following them. I always took issue with that as I respected older directors and believed that I found new things in their later films. Marshall is doing his best to wreck that belief, as he can’t get a young actor to act believable. Sure, they do the basic kid schtick. Nervous, anxious, full of suspicion about what their friends might think or want to do; the teens and kids of this film are a peculiar bunch. But, there’s nothing to differentiate their actions from their adult counterparts. Kids aren’t tiny adults, they’re incomplete individuals desperately trying to make sense of the adult world.
Valentine’s Day isn’t a well-made movie. The script from Katherine Fugate often gets lost directing so many actors with so few reasons to be interacting. The only time they seem to share any sense of a common universe is when they’re being bitter and bleak. People mention the Holiday in passing with about as much thought as Born-Again Christians pay to Anton LaVey. Love is portrayed as a commonplace commodity that means as much to the plot as sugary messages on candy hearts. Marshall stumbles through some sort of sappy Methadone pap that’s meant to get your lady through the gap that comes between Grey’s Anatomy and Army Wives.
In the end, the film falls on its face because it’s a giant orgy of celebs being celebs. Love, Actually had a lot of British actors working a scene and making the most of a Richard Curtis script jam. This is a work of stars made for people who like to watch stars being stars. Some might say it’s a larger commentary on how truly fucking vapid mainstream movies are becoming in the Adderall Generation. I don’t want to be so bleak, but it’s hard to argue against it. When you have reboots for films less than a decade old, you have to wonder what asses are really feeling cinema seats.
encoded transfer never impresses throughout the film. Apparently, Marshall and his D.P. never heard of consistent lighting. Exterior scenes play better, as natural lighting actually helps to increase the field of depth in a scene. Night shots and interiors (as seen in the screenshot below) fall hard in less than stunning 1080p HD. The DTS-HD master audio track never really powers the 5.1 channels to full capacity. You get soft dialogue and very little push for the louder music-filled scenes. Much like the film, things just sort of happen and fall where they might. This is one of the least impressive Blu-Rays that I’ve seen this year.
follows this weird pattern for Warner Brothers releases since
they realized that they could drive DVD sales to the next-gen by force.
Sure, you could buy just the DVD and get some basic featurettes. But,
the Blu-Ray comes with a digital copy, a Blu-Ray copy and the features you used to get on DVD. Thrill to a Jewel music video, celebs bullshitting about Garry Marshall’s greatness and there’s a Sex and the City 2 exclusive sneak peek. It’s almost enough to make this Blu-Ray disc smell spring-time fresh. If you have to entertain the vaginal ones in your life, I’d recommend picking this up.