Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Taylor Swift & Jennifer Garner in Valentine's Day

Getting tired of formulaic rom-coms designed to tug at your heartstrings yet? Most of the film-going audience must not be, based on the amount of laughter & “aww”s I heard at the screening for Valentine’s Day

But this is directed by Gary Marshall! The guy who gave us such classics as Pretty Woman! And Beaches! And those Princess Diaries movies everyone loves! Of course, he’s also responsible for the train wreck that is Georgia Rule, but I digress. Gary Marshall should know how to make a romantic comedy, and yet all he’s done here is take a bunch of popular actors and fit them into an anthology of predictable scenarios designed to make audiences go all soft & gooey. Let me break it down for you:

Ashton Kutcher is the loveable boy-next-door type, who asks gorgeous, work-obsessed girlfriend Jessica Alba to marry him. Meanwhile, his best friend & girl-next-door/grade school teacher Jennifer Garner is sleeping with selfish a-hole Patrick Dempsey. WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Bradley Cooper (mygod WHY is he in everything???) meets military Captain Julia Roberts on an INTL flight into LA, and marvels at her strength and courage! Also, she’s on leave for just 24 hours to “visit someone special”. How endearing.

Mailroom boy Topher Grace has luckily stumbled into hot sex with office temp Anne Hathaway, who has a burning *secret* to conceal, and Queen Latifah plays Anne’s sassy temp boss (of course she does), who is also pro-ball player Eric Dane’s Agent (and he has a burning *secret* too! Ooooh). 

Jessica Biel gets stuck playing the unfortunately stereotypical lonely single girl who has an anti-valentine’s party every year and chokes down her unhappiness with boxes of chocolates followed by 4-hour treadmill sessions, and then ends up collapsing in tears into the arms of a total stranger: local sports news reporter Jamie Foxx. Oh yeah, he’s a player who HATES Valentine’s Day.

(take a deep breath, we’re not done yet)

Throw in 2 teenage couples for the youth market: Taylor Swift & Taylor Lautner as the pretty, popular, not-very-deep pair, and Emma Roberts & Carter Jenkins as the more down-to-earth 18-year-olds, determined to lose their virginity to one another before going off to college.

Lest you think the older generation was forgot, there’s also Hector Elizondo & Shirley Maclaine as grandparents to precocious cutie Bryce Robinson – who ends up tying most characters together.

And…for added comic relief; there’s Kathy Bates, George Lopez, and Kristen Schaal (Mel from Flight of the Conchords!). Oh, and this all takes place in one day, Valentine’s Day. GET IT?

As confusing as that looks written down, imagine trying to follow it all ON SCREEN. It’s like the screenwriter and director sat down and asked themselves; “How can we make Love Actually more American? I know! Let’s double the character count! And make every situation light & hilarious! Even the really depressing stuff! That will totally work!!” 

And you have to hand it to the casting director, because you’d think any movie starring both McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) & McSteamy (I’m ashamed to admit I even know those names, considering I’ve never watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy) would automatically be a huge success, especially one that shows men’s abs so liberally. Speaking of which, say HELLO to McSteamy Eric Dane’s 6-pack – which is nicely distracting from his monotone line delivery, little Topher Grace has definitely been hitting the gym lately, and Ashton, well. You know. Everyone loves that guy.

The Ab-fest ties into one of the film’s cleverer (?) gags: Taylor Lautner saying “Nah, I’m kind of shy about taking my shirt off in public” as he declines to change into a custom jersey his girlfriend made for him. Ha-ha! (Remember New Moon, you guys? OMG! Ow, my side.)

Admittedly, I did laugh at some things – but then I was pissed at myself for falling for the same old romantic comedy bullshit.  There’s absolutely nothing here you haven’t seen before, and some of it is downright insulting.

As a whole, it’s pretty awful, but if you have to see it, I will say that Swift’s spot-on portrayal of a self-obsessed teen and Hathaway’s throaty phone performances are the best reasons to go. Just stick to a matinee – and make sure you stay for the credits. They’re full of hilarious bloopers and another movie in-joke! (Disclaimer: it’s not that hilarious)

{Valentine’s Day opened today, Friday 2/12 in Seattle and is playing at the Metro, Majestic Bay and Oak Tree Cinemas}