AWFJ Women On Film – “Valentine’s Day” – Susan Granger reviews

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This disappointing romantic comedy bonbon seems more geared to celebrity-spotting than cinematic storytelling, as it interweaves the lives of several Los Angelinos during the course of one fateful February 14th.

Beginning Cupid’s eventful day, florist Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher) – through whose shop many of the characters pass – proposes to his hesitant girl-friend (Jessica Alba), while his unlucky-in-love best-friend Julia (Jennifer Garner) is dazzled by a doctor (“McDreamy” Patrick Dempsey from “Grey’s Anatomy”) but doesn’t know he’s married with a family. Schoolteacher Julia is also adored by a precocious fifth-grader (Bryce Robinson). Meanwhile, a workaholic publicist (Jessica Biel) shepherds an aging football star (Eric Dane from “Grey’s Anatomy”) whose agent (Queen Latifah) has a new receptionist (Anne Hathaway) who moonlights doing phone-sex. Plus there’s an ambitious TV sportscaster (Jamie Foxx) and his producer (Kathy Bates). High above, an airline passenger (Bradley Cooper) is fascinated by an Army captain (Julia Roberts) who is traveling halfway around the world. Two high schoolers (Carter Jenkins and Emma Roberts, Julia’s real-life niece) plan to lose their virginity over the lunch hour, while two of their classmates (Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift) smooch on the playground. And an elderly couple (Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo) tries to reconcile with a movie from her past (1958’s “Hot Spell”) flickering in the background.

Superficially directed by “Pretty Woman”/”Princess Diaries” veteran Garry Marshall from a sappy, simplistic screenplay by Katherine Fulgate, based on a “Love Boat”-like story by Fulgate, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, it has a few touching moments but basically meanders through tourist-friendly Southern California landmarks like the Hollywood sign, Venice Canals, Disney Hall, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Bistro Gardens, Bob’s Big Boy and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where old movies are shown at night. While it marks the ditsy screen debut of songbird Taylor Swift, cameos by George Lopez and Larry Miller get the laughs.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Valentine’s Day” is fluffy, flimsy 4. Yet a seasonal sequel, “New Year’s Day,” has already been announced. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.