Saturday, 10 May 2014
Ample evidence suggests the toughest challenge movies face is identifying good ideas to base them on. When someone does find such an idea, you can bet your million dollars on Hollywood, the same Hollywood that complains its movies are being copied, copying the idea.
Case in point: Love Actually, the British original from 2003, and Valentine's Day, the American take on the formula from 2010. The former proved a landmark movie, and in my opinion an excellent one too; the latter? Not so much.
Like the original, Valentine's Day is made of a collection of [love] stories that, at one stage or another, prove to be intertwined to one extent or another. The core story, perhaps, is that of the owner of a flower business (Ashton Kutcher), whose adventures we follow throughout that special date on the calendar that is otherwise known as Valentine's Day. He starts his day proposing to his girlfriend (Jessica Alba), who accepts but rather reluctantly. Her reluctance is the driver for the bulk of the rest of the film.
Thus we are exposed to glimpses of other people's Valentine's Day stories. These include that of the florist's best friend (Jennifer Garner), who is seeing a doctor that turns out to be married (Patrick Dempsey); a guy abroad a flight (Bradley Cooper) who chats with the soldier returning home that sits next to him (Julia Roberts); a TV sports reporter asked to cover Valentine's Day stories for the day (Jamie Foxx); and many more. The formula is simple to figure out: take a famous star, put them in some sort of a romanic entanglement we've seen many times before, mix with the rest of the stories, and shake well.
Alas, the result is not half as good as the cast list may suggest. Sure, it has the names, but it doesn't have the character; with the short screen time each get, the challenge of developing proper round characters proves too hard for Valentine's Day. What we end up with are cliches, often annoying ones. Another thing we end up with is the usual pile of Hollywood conservative values manure, best demonstrated through the positive portrayal of kids withholding on sex (till after they're married?).
Only one of the love stories offers a bit of interest, and that's the one between the aforementioned Foxx and Jessica Biel. The rest is rather pathetic, and with a two hour long affair it's all quite boring, too. In other words, through the act of copying a "foreign" movie Hollywood is left showing off the bulk of its vulnerabilities.
Best scene: Somewhere in the end credits there appears one Steve Irwin, credited with "24 frame" something. Yes, that was the most interesting part of the movie by far.
Overall: A sad indictment of contemporary, originality deprived, Hollywood. Valentine's Day lies somewhere between 1.5 and 2 out of 5 crabs.