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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine’s Day

An Altmanesque experiment in cotton candy kisses

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Valentine’s Day is a rom-com designed for mass appeal, and it’d be totally flavorless if not for a layer of cloying sweetness strong enough to rot out your teeth.

Featuring a cast of thousands, the picture is like one of those massive supermarket candy samplers, if you don’t like a storyline, there’s another one nearby to try. It’s an overlapping day-in-the-life muddle, like Robert Altman plotting a Lifetime movie, with a host of photogenic singles and couples colliding all over a sun-soaked L.A.

The parade of mugs include Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Patrick Dempsey, Queen Latifah, Jessica Biel, George Lopez, Bradley Cooper and pretty much the rest of showbiz. Hacky grandpa Garry Marshall doesn’t direct so much as play a sleepy traffic cop, scooting the players along every few minutes. The film is so overstuffed with plotlines that new characters are still being introduced nearly an hour in, and most get lost in the shuffle for long stretches.

The nominal connective tissue is Ashton Kutcher, as a drippy florist who cruises in a pink van delivering bouquets and romantic advice. His own love life is a mess, of course; his airhead fiancée (Jessica Alba) is noncommittal, and his best pal and secret crush (Garner) is unknowingly dating a married cad (Dempsey). Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx is a TV sports reporter stuck shooting holiday fluff, but eager to scoop the big secret behind lonely publicist Jessica Biel’s quarterback client (Eric Dane). There are so many romantic triangles, rectangles and hexagons crisscrossing each other that it’d take a graphing calculator to sort them out.

Some bits are cute, such as Cooper and Roberts as strangers on a plane. Some are there just for a stunt, like tween-y pinups Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift smashing their pinched faces together like hormonal, mutant teddy bears.

At best, the movie’s a distraction, offering cotton candy and mild annoyance, a good lull-to-sleep on a long plane ride, if you’re not lucky enough to have Julia Roberts as a seat mate.

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