I never thought I would like Valentine's Day more than The Wolf Man. True, it was #13 on my 25 Most Anticipated this year, but The Wolf Man was #1 on last year's. In the end, though, I could not resist the charm of this ensemble rom-com.
It's uneven, certainly. Not tonally, of course, but quality-wise. Some moments are great, flirting with brilliance...others are just head-slappingly awful. Often, these come together, with clunky lines following witty gems. It's certainly an odd one to get into, too, for every scene plays like the climax. So many important story developments happen that you're wondering where all the character development went. And then you realize that there's still another hour and fifteen minutes to go, so this is technically just the big ACT ONE CURTAIN.
But it's hard not to fall in love with some of its most charming aspects. The great-looking cast, the great-looking costumes, those moments of brilliance. The old married couple of Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine is realistically written and portrayed; the high school deflowering subplot is funny and sweet; the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts gives us the most consistently great storyline of the film.
And yes, I wish the only Asians in the movie weren't stereotypes, and I hated the xenophobic "English with a Bulgarian accent" joke, and the gay couple could have at least hugged or shaken hands or something, and the scene in the school with Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner was clunky, unnatural, and irritating to watch.
But the movie did make me admire the acting abilities of Kutcher, Jessica Alba and George Lopez, which is no small feat. It was interesting to see the whole gamut of great, awful, and eh in one movie, though. Only one performance stinks to high heaven, and that's Eric Dane as a pro football player. Non-actor Taylor Swift has dead eyes, though she makes an energetic first attempt at acting. Child actor Bryce Robinson is adorable, but midway through, you realize he, too, has dead eyes and a blank face. Patrick Dempsey and Kathy Bates are only cameos, and though Queen Latifah almost fits this bill, too, she is just so glorious to watch.
So, best in show: Jessica Biel, Cooper, Carter Jenkins, Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Latifah, Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts and Julia Roberts. With ten especially strong performances and only three awful ones in a cast of twenty-two, Valentine's Day is a real charmer.