STARS/**** Image B Sound B Extras C
starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper
screenplay by Katherine Fugate
directed by Garry Marshall
by Walter Chaw There are worse directors working today than Garry Marshall, but not many and then not much worse. I've vowed on a few occasions (like after Beaches, Pretty Woman, Exit to Eden, The Other Sister, Raising Helen, Georgia Rule) to never subject myself to another Marshall joint--certainly to never bother reviewing another one. What's the point, really, of taking the piss out of this guy and his movies? They're consistently, stridently tone deaf; unfailingly saccharine; morally suspect; visually uninteresting; casually racist/misogynist/classist/homophobic; and dangerously enervating to the point of meriting some kind of warning label. Marry Marshall's adorable dog/kid reaction shots and wholesale white-rape of Motown standards to a bloated ensemble cast (everyone from Jamie Foxx to Kathy Bates--yes, it's horrific) enacting a two-hour version of Marshall's career-launching TV series "Love, American Style" and what you get is every bit the horror movie the title Valentine's Day suggests.
I'm not about to synopsize the titular-fake-holiday hijinks that unfold in all these Abercrombie & Fitch tableaux, filled out by the likes of Taylors Swift and Lautner, Ashton Kutcher, Robertses Julia and Emma, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Queen Latifah, Jessicas Alba and Biel, Eric Dane, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo, and George Lopez in a pink sweat jacket. There's literally no point in talking about bullshit like this, about the parallel vignettes in which a gradeschooler orders flowers for his dreamgirl and teenaged Emma Roberts books an appointment to bust her cherry. That being in exceedingly bad taste is merely one of the picture's myriad crimes against art: Valentine's Day is an affront to film craft, to people who bleed over their screenplays and take their jobs as actors seriously, as a means of artistic and self- expression.
It's not that Valentine's Day is one of the worst movies ever made (that much is to be expected), it's that it's offensive to anyone with even a rudimentary sense of taste or the faintest hope that their entertainment will be worthy of their attention. The film is the equivalent of taking your hooker to Taco Bell, because, see, if you do shit like that, you obviously don't care about anything--and if you defend your desire to do shit like that, you're a complete moron. You don't care that Queen Latifah and some other black woman play identical Mammy figures (this despite their characters being at opposite poles of class), that there are gay jokes and a great big queen caricature to represent another charming ultra-conservative viewpoint (before offering up a gay NFL quarterback as unexamined sop), or that Marshall pays homage to his own The Other Sister in an embarrassing cutaway.
Those looking for tween hottie Swift to (chastely) shake her money-maker before (chastely) making out with Lautner get their wish, though the price is enduring her trying to act like she's not pimping her abstinence platform, just as the film is pretending like it's not a commercial for how one of the most untalented people in the history of any endeavour continues to earn a pretty great living at said endeavour. This is what Uwe Boll looks like when he's been embraced, enthusiastically, by a mainstream audience; what Ed Wood looks like with a budget and a cast featuring every middle-class idol of the past twenty-five years. It's "The Vagina Monologues: The Movie" with time for a little Indian girl who's promised a nice arranged marriage by her restaurant-owning mommy, a dance sequence, and Jamie Foxx to play the piano again. Oh, and Jennifer Garner's in it, too.THE BLU-RAY DISC
New Line shits Valentine's Day onto your living-room carpet in a 1.78:1, 1080p Blu-ray transfer soft in detail and heavy on blacks, as befitting a nihilistic slasher flick. Colours are rich but strangely indistinct while flesh tones appear ruddy for whatever reason, with Garner, in particular, resembling a strangely-hued clown more than usual. The whole thing is distinctly flat, though, indicated by a thin miasma of grain that feels arbitrarily tacked on to disguise the murkiness as filmic consequence. A 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is absolutely serviceable, if sometimes a bit less than that. There's nothing to hear here, of course, and I suspect that's the saving grace. Fourteen deleted scenes (15 mins., HD) are playable with optional intros from our High Inquisitor Marshall wherein he manages to quote both Faulkner and Shakespeare--in complete seriousness, I think. Welcome to another circle of Hell. Deleted scenes include one with the Denver Nuggets' heavily-tattooed, injury-prone centre Chris Anderson and the realization, always front-and-centre in Marshall's films, that there's actually a possibility that, for as wrong as it all went, it somehow could've gone worse. A blooper reel (6 mins., HD) is not funny in the slightest, although a moment where Queen Latifah surprises Marshall from a nap does arouse a moment of inappropriate hope. And then there's the whole sequence of the actors taking turns doing their Marshall impersonations.
There's more. "The Stars Confess Their Valentine's Day Stories" (6 mins., HD) is a slick, impersonal piece with...hey, did I mention that Patrick Dempsey is in this? "The Garry Factor" (5 mins., HD) would only be surpassed in my mind by a five-minute hagiography of Akiva Goldsman or Michael Bay, perhaps, as the cast gathers to deliver another wet blowjob to their beloved Garry, doing their best to name their favourite Marshall flicks followed by more impersonations. I do like that Marshall says that one of his greatest strengths is "working with big stars." Uh huh. Topping off the video-based supplements is a music video for Jewel's "Stay Here Forever" (3 mins., HD) in which the former It Girl does her best Taylor Swift. How the mighty have slid sideways.
In case you think you've dodged the biggest bullet, no, there's also a feature-length commentary from a doddering, ridiculous Marshall, who comes off like the forgetful Jewish grandfather you're glad you never had. It's packed with bon mots like, "These opening shots were my love letters to L.A.!" and, "Who might this be? It's a girl I once saw with a tiara!" in reference to Anne Hathaway and his own Princess Diaries franchise, and then, "Who's she kissing, this tiara girl?!"--whoo boy. He narrates a lot, talks about showing kissing to demonstrate that characters are together ("But not too much!" Oy!), and observes, "It's a flight attendant, we must be on a plane!" I sort of want to die. But him first. Finally, because it makes sense, a 3-minute trailer for/sneak peek at Sex and the City 2 autoplays on startup and is clickable from the extras menu. Listen, I'm not advocating censorship; I'm advocating packing up everyone who pushes and consumes this shit into a barrel and shooting them into the sun. Is that too much to ask? A second disc has a combination DVD/Digital Copy of this thing should you, for some reason, want to watch Valentine's Day on your iPod. Originally published: August 10, 2010.