Garry Marshall emptied his Facebook for "Valentine's Day," calling in favors, overstuffing this overlong ode to love with Oscar winners, up-and-comers and top Internet bikini searches. It's an American "Love Actually" without the warmth that writer-director Richard Curtis stuffs into his all-star confections, without the wit, without much love, actually.
A chaotic cluster of inter-connected characters court, collide and crack-up in Los Angeles in this "Crash"-for-Chocoholics. There's no real overarching theme, with most characters reaching an obvious conclusion to their dilemma, though Marshall's cast (Katherine Fugate scripted) still lands a few one-liners.
Ashton Kutcher plays a florist who proposes to his "too good" for him girlfriend (Jessica Alba). He spends the day mooning over her to his employee (George Lopez) and his best friend (Jennifer Garner). The best friend is all gooey-eyed for her Valentine, a heart surgeon (Patrick Dempsey) who is always out of town on business and can't walk by fruit without picking it up and juggling it.
Jessica Biel plays a publicist who throws "I Hate Valentine's Day" parties and Jamie Foxx is a cynical TV sports reporter sent out to gather "What Valentine's Day means to you" thoughts from Angelinos.
"Love is the only shocking act left on the planet," the florist tells him.
Queen Latifah is an agent whose new assistant (Anne Hathaway, having the time of her life) doubles as a phone sex operator who services clients with a dazzling array of accents. Topher Grace is the new man in her life who doesn't know how she pays the bills.
On a plane, Julia Roberts is a soldier headed home on one-day leave, with Bradley Cooper as her handsome and too-curious seatmate. Long-married grandparents (Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo) are raising their young grandson, who deals with his first crush with the help of a teen nanny (Emma Roberts), who plans to lose her virginity to her beau on that romantic day.
Quaint LA settings (a cemetery outdoor movie screening, the LA flower market), roses, adorable moppets, moist-eyed leading ladies and don't-forget-the-ducklings fill the frame of this gaudy Hallmark card of a movie. Few of this crowded cast (I've left many out) make much of an impression. Marshall could have made a cute movie out of the Kutcher-Alba-Dempsey-Garner-Hathaway and Grace characters, keeping high school goofs Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift for their doe-eyed silliness.
The laughs are thin and might have been bigger had this emphasized the crankier characters overcoming their cynicism, maybe retitling this "I Hate Valentine's Day." But that's been taken by an earlier botched romance set on a day that never seems to host a decent Hollywood romantic comedy.
REVIEW: "Valentine's Day"
One and a half stars
STARRING: Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Kathy Bates
RATED: PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 5 minutes