Ladies and gentlemen, let the record show that the Twitter movie has arrived.
“Valentine’s Day” consists of a bunch of incidents and concepts and indications that in our omni-media world are taken for stories, though all of them would fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit. And it would take less time to list the people who are not in this movie than the people who are. The opening credits, with one name at a time, threaten to continue for the first hour of the movie. I’ll save time with this summary: just about anyone in Hollywood who has ever been described as cute or adorable is in the cast, with a full complement of Jennifers plus a Jessica, a Julia, a couple of Taylors, four Oscar winners, and a Queen.
Love, Actually-style — or, actually, Love American Style-style, this is a bouquet of skits that are variations on the themes of love — old, new, familiar, surprising, poignant, frustrating, and joyous. I do not use the terms “deep” or “unpredictable” or “witty.” Like a dime store box of valentine chocolates, it is not fancy, and some of the ingredients may not be ideal, but they are still tasty.
At the heart of the story is Ashton Kutcher as Reed, an idealistic and kind-hearted florist who starts off Valentine’s Day by proposing to his career-focused girlfriend (Jessica Alba) and is overjoyed when she agrees. As he goes on through his busiest day of the year, taking orders and making deliveries, he encounters many of the other characters observing the holiday in their own ways. A young boy needs flowers for the most beautiful girl in school. A doctor needs flowers for both his wife and his girlfriend.
Also — a teacher (Jennifer Garner) decides to surprise her boyfriend by flying out to see him. A young man newly in love and an older man married for decades must cope with disappointing revelations. A football player (Eric Dane) and a sportscaster (Jamie Foxx) think about what they are missing by being alone as a publicist (Jessica Biel) wonders if anyone is coming to her annual “I Hate Valentine’s Day” party with its ceremonial bashing of a heart-shaped pinata. A young couple finds that no matter how carefully they have planned their first sexual encounter, they cannot anticipate every problem. And a US Army captain (Julie Roberts) and a businessman (Bradley Cooper) seated next to each other on a 14-hour flight, talk about life and love and how precious the time we spend with those we love can be.
Some of the segments work better than others and a few sour moments intrude when the movie wants us as well as its characters to shrug off certain choices that to my mind are unsettling. The revenge of a woman who was cheated on is more creepy than vindicating. And I thought I made this clear, people: NO MORE RACING THROUGH AIRPORT SCENES IN ROMANTIC COMEDIES.
Director Garry Marshall keeps things moving so that by the time you realize one story is not working very well we are on to the next. He tosses in many bits of pop songs throughout just to make sure we don’t miss anything (the first-time couple drives off to “Feels Like the First Time,” get it?). There are too many participants for the performances to be anything but competent, though it gets some energy from sheer star power, especially from Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, and Marshall perennial good luck charm Hector Elizondo. Taylor Swift clearly has some fun as half of a high school couple believably described as “full of promise, full of hope, ignorant of reality.” Distracting winks at the audience (Taylor Lautner’s character says he is uncomfortable taking his shirt off in public, we see a poster for Love, Actually, and in the closing credit sequence Roberts reprises some dialogue from the movie she made with Marshall, “Pretty Woman”), however, are just about always an acknowledgment that the movie needs some artificial stimulants to keep the audience feeling entertained. But watching pretty people fall in and out of love is not a bad way to spend a winter evening and there is so much going on that at least one relationship will touch just about anyone.