Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts want to be your ‘Valentine’
BY SEAN O’CONNELL
Valentine’s Day (*1/2 out of 4)
Garry Marshall intersperses outtakes and bloopers throughout his “Valentine’s Day” end credits. In one, a limo driver coyly asks his passenger, played by Julia Roberts, if she’s ever shopped on Rodeo Drive. “Once. It was a big mistake. Huge,” Robert deadpans, lightheartedly skewering her career-launching turn in Marshall’s “Pretty Woman.”
If Roberts considers “Pretty Woman” a mistake, she must classify “Valentine’s Day” as a disaster of epic proportions. The magnetic redhead – with her trademark radiant smile – is but one small piece of this unwieldy concoction that tracks a small army of Angelinos falling in and out of love on Valentine’s Day. Florist Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) has a finger in almost half of the loosely associated storylines. Not only does he propose to his wishy-washy girlfriend (Jessica Alba), but countless characters conveniently pop in and out of Reed’s L.A. shop, helping link subplots that would have a hard time intersecting if “Valentine’s Day” were set in a phone booth.
Which does “Valentine’s Day” have more of, flavor-of-the-minute celebrities or flavorless and tired romantic clichés? I lost count of both tallies as Marshall’s artificially sweetened ensemble comedy lumbered through no less than 15 Valentine vignettes, each as thin as a Hallmark card yet none quite as endearingly sentimental.
Marshall’s casting almost distracts from Katherine Fugate’s sloppy writing. I still can’t figure out how Jennifer Garner’s character boards a plane for San Francisco intent on surprising her lover (Patrick Dempsey, playing yet another smarmy, cheating sleazeball) yet never leaves Los Angeles. The nurse she speaks to at her “destination” confirms she’s in Los Angeles. In the very next scene, Garner’s on her cell phone telling her best friend she’s still in L.A. How does a plot hole that massive make it through final edits? Either Marshall doesn’t care, or he assumes the audience won’t.
Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, but had the star-studded “Valentine’s Day” lived up to its full potential, it could have become the next “Nashville” or “Short Cuts.” No doubt the late, great Robert Altman would have figured out how to gracefully maneuver his capable cast through their preconditioned hoops without relying on preposterous coincidences or hiding behind hackneyed plotting. Instead on an interlocking tapestry of passion and romance, however, “Valentine’s Day” ends up being the modern-day equivalent of a “Love Boat” episode, caring only about matchmaking its roster of able A-listers regardless of practicality or common sense. Exert some common sense of your own and support a better movie this Valentine’s Day.
The Wolfman (**1/2 out of 4)
Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman” is no dog. But it doesn’t exactly give us any reason to howl at the moon.
In updating one of Universal’s classic creatures, Johnston and his collaborators recreate a moody, Victorian England where a wild beast is stalking residents of a misty moor. Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns home to attend his brother’s funeral – he was shredded by the legendary wolf of the title – but finds something fishy with his father, John (Sir Anthony Hopkins), and his brother’s fiancée (Emily Blunt).
“Wolfman” has a number of things going for it, from its able cast to Rick Baker’s fantastic, transformative makeup tricks. When you need the best, you get Baker, so Johnston deserves credit for his wise choices. But he also receives the blame for stripping the fun out of the wolfman lore. “Wolfman” is fine, but kind of a bore.