If you're looking for an intertwining-plot-threads fun sweet romantic comedy to watch on Valentine's Day, you could do worse than Valentine's Day. (No spoilers here.)
(If you'd rather avoid romancey stuff today, then you don't want to see this movie, and you may want to skip this review.)
It's a formula established by Love Actually: Pick a significant holiday and a major British or American city; write roughly ten short funny sweet-or-bittersweet romance stories (some with some substance, others very brief and fluffy) set on or around that holiday and in or around that city; have some of the characters in them overlap (friends, family, co-workers); cast about twenty well-known actors (mostly white), including a few major stars; cut back and forth among the stories; sell to an admiring public.
I love Love Actually despite some politically problematic bits (notably all the fat jokes). In late 2011, I saw New Year's Eve, which I enjoyed but which seemed to me to be clearly constructed along the same lines; after watching that, I wrote: “What's next? Presidents' Day?” and someone said “Well, there was another one, about Valentine's Day.” Which recently finally made it to the top of my Netflix queue, and I figured the night before V-Day was as good a time as any to watch it.
It turns out, though I didn't know this until after watching it, that Valentine's Day was written and directed by the same people as New Year's Eve, and released the previous year. Now I'm hoping they'll give the same treatment to all the holidays. Halloween already has a movie, and I suppose Veteran's Day and Memorial Day might be too somber for a romantic comedy, but I look forward to the movies Thanksgiving, Labor Day, St. Patrick's Day, Tax Day, and Stephen Foster Memorial Day.
Anyway. The movie at hand (Valentine's Day, in case you've lost track in all the digressions) is pretty much what you would expect if you've seen either of the other two. It's not as good as Love Actually (but it has about 100% fewer malicious fat jokes), and it's about as good as New Year's Eve. Most of the storylines are extremely predictable, though one was a delightful surprise. The cast is good, as usual for these things. The first half of the movie was fine but didn't actually make me laugh, but I laughed more and more as things progressed; I really liked the second half quite a bit. The romances are fluffy but sweet—there's very little of the bittersweet that made some parts of Love Actually feel a little more substantial and sad.
Anne Hathaway is by far my favorite actor in this; she's fun and charming as someone who's moonlighting as a phone-sex worker. Ashton Kutcher (who I've liked in three movies now, though I just realized I've been confusing him with Justin Timberlake) and Jennifer Garner do a good job in the central-spine storyline that's sort of the core of the movie. George Lopez as the
token Latino best friend starts out looking like a stereotype but gets a little more interesting later.
Bradley Cooper is hot as always, and I like the interactions between him and Julia Roberts (who's cast, unusually, as a military captain on leave) on an airplane. Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner are also hot, as a somewhat airheaded high-school couple. Eric Dane is also hot as a football player. Jessica Biel is good as his publicist who's hosting an anti-V-Day party.
Queen Latifah in a relatively minor role as the
token black woman football player's agent is fun. Jamie Foxx in a major role as a token black man sportscaster is fine but has one really unfortunate line (but also a couple of very funny lines), and I feel like his storyline is one of the three or so that get a bit shortchanged and resolve a little too easily. Kathy Bates, sadly, has little more than a two-part cameo in the TV studio.
Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo are good as the old married couple. Bryce Robinson is cute as the little white boy in love, but nowhere near as adorable as (and a too-obvious copy of) Sam (the Thomas Sangster character) from Love Actually.
Overall I'd say Valentine's Day is worth seeing for people who like this sort of thing. People who don't like this sort of thing should probably stay far away from it, especially today.