The only surprising thing about star-studded rom com Valentine's Day is that it's not called Love, American Style: The Movie. Populated with nineteen top-billed stars and coming in at over two hours, it's an L.A.-story anthology film built for cross-generational appeal, from Shirley MacLaine fans to Taylor Swift fans. Somehow, nothing succeeds like success (or is it excess?), so chalk up another hit for director Garry Marshall, who is already hatching plans for celeb-packed pseudo-sequel New Year's Eve.
Now, don't get me wrong. Valentine's Day is bad. But it's difficult to hate a Garry Marshall movie. Unlike so many other directors of this sort of disposable trash, this guy remembers that he's in "show business," emphasis on the "show." As such, Valentine's Day has sitcom snap and the goodwill of a ear-to-ear grin or a bearhug (as one character asks, "Why not always be happy?"). Katherine Fugate's script has zilch to say about love, but Marshall rounds up plenty of stars to say it. Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper (Broadway co-stars in Three Days of Rain) inhabit one of the film's most fleeting storylines, with two strangers meeting on an airplane. Ashton Kutcher plays a florist who runs into trouble when he proposes to girlfriend Jessica Alba; he's consoled by lifelong pal Jennifer Garner, who's having her own trouble with boyfriend Patrick Dempsey. Then there's local TV reporter Jamie Foxx, who's after publicist Jessica Biel to give him a scoop on her client Eric Dane, a football star with a secret weighing on him. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway contemplates how to reveal to boyfriend-of-two-weeks Topher Grace that she moonlights doing phone sex, and MacLaine dangerously confesses to hubby Hector Elizondo that she had an affair years earlier (Elizondo is Marshall's indispensible good-luck charm).
For the kids, there are yet simpler storylines: a young boy (Bryce Robinson) with a crush on teacher Garner and two high-school couples: Emma Roberts and Carter Jenkins decide to lose their virginity, with disasterous results, while Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift (in real life, that hottest of publicist-arranged couples)—well, they just show up, act dumb, and try to look like they like each other. A few other familiar faces show up: George Lopez has lots of screen time as Kutcher's wise(-cracking) co-worker, Kathy Bates plays Foxx's sharp boss, Larry Miller gets a few chuckles as an airline employee, Joe Mantegna has a one-line cameo, and Paul Williams frames the film with his voice-over role of DJ Romeo Midnight. Marshall isn't going for reality; it's all done in strictly winking fashion that cheerfully acknowledges the genre's clichés and indulges self-referential humor. Part of the fun is Marshall's loving use of L.A. locations, but his interstitial visual cues—like a random toddler kiss—unabashedly evoke those pastel gift-shop postcards designed for tasteless rubes.
Every plot turn can be seen coming all the way up Rodeo Drive, and every story gets an insultingly hasty wrap-up. You live by the cast of a thousand stars, you die by the cast of a thousand stars: Valentine's Day's biggest problem is its inability to achieve any depth to any of its storylines. Infidelities get healed, arguments resolved, and loves forged in a matter of hours or, of course, only a matter of minutes in screen time. But Marshall knows, and he's not wrong, that a lot of goodwill and a lot attractive stars giving zippy performances are enough to get a pass from moviegoers. Like I say, Valentine's Day is bad, but I've seen worse.
Warner brings Valentine's Day to Blu-ray in a solid hi-def transfer that lacks dimensionality but delivers a clean and reasonably detailed transfer that easily bests its DVD equivalent. Black level is good, but color tone is questionably pushed toward Valentine's Day red—it's hard to say if this was true in the source, though it would sorta make sense (as it is, the color scheme of costumes and set decoration favors reds and pinks). The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix would seem to be definitive, despite a couple of scenes having a less than full-bodied presence. For the most part, it's a pleasingly clear if not especially dynamic or immersive mix.
Surprisingly, Valentine's Day gets something like the deluxe treatment in the special features department. Director Garry Marshall is an awful lot of fun to spend some time with, and he's all over the extras, beginning with an audio commentary by director Garry Marshall. As always, Marshall is a hoot talking about the actors, the shoot, and his intentions for the film.
There's a "Blooper Reel" (5:46, HD) introduced by Marshall, followed by fourteen "Deleted Scenes" with optional intros by Marshall (22:28 in all, HD). Given the time constraints on an ensemble film like this one, the assortment of cuts proves more interesting than it might otherwise be, the weirdest trim being a wholly useless (and expensive-looking) scene featuring L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, Penny Marshall, and Jamie Foxx.
"The Stars Confess Their Valentine's Day Stories" (6:27, HD) doesn't exactly drop any bombs from the stars' personal lives, but it does feature peppy interview clips with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Eric Dane, Topher Grace, Bradley Cooper, Taylor Lautner, Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Taylor Swift, Ashton Kutcher, Garry Marshall, George Lopez, Hector Elizondo, Queen Latifah, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Garner.
"The Garry Factor" (5:03, HD) allows the cast to enthuse about their director (and do terrible impressions of him). Participants include Garner, Roberts, Latifah, Alba, Carter Jenkins, Dempsey, Biel, Grace, Shirley MacLaine, Hathaway, Foxx, Lopez, Marshall, Bryce Robinson, Elizondo, Lautner, Swift, Cooper and Kutcher.
Rounding out the disc are the "'Stay Here Forever' Music Video by Jewel" (3:10, HD) and an "Exclusive Sex and the City 2 Sneak Peek Trailer" (2:49, HD).
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer