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Tuesday, February 9,2010

'Valentine's Day' an ideal date movie

By Rick Bentley

When making movies, it's possible to have too much of a good thing.

Director Garry Marshall's romantic comedy "Valentine's Day" is loaded with more stars than a season of "The Love Boat," "Dancing With the Stars" and "Celebrity Rehab" combined. The result: celebrity overkill.

And in an effort to take care of all the stars, Marshall ends up short-changing everyone.

His lineup includes Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Jennifer Garner, Emma Roberts, Jessica Alba, Topher Grace, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, Hector Elizondo, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift.

Structured similarly to the wonderfully made "Love Actually," Marshall weaves together a host of romantic stories, all played out on Valentine's Day. The difference between the two films is that Marshall does twice as much weaving and in many places the stories just unravel.

You need a road map to follow some of the storylines. A romantic florist (Kutcher) asks his girlfriend (Alba) to marry him. His best female friend (Garner), who's involved with a married man (Dempsey), and his best male friend (Lopez), who ends up in a car accident with a football player (Dane), don't think she is right for him.

Imagine that kind of twisting and turning repeated with at least eight other storylines. Trying to keep up with all the players is exhausting. Even worse, instead of being fully formed tales or romance, each storyline has about as much depth as a little candy heart that says "Be Mine."

Interesting relationships — like that between Grace and Hathaway, a couple trying to cope with her odd occupation — move at a gallop and cheat the viewer. And Taylor Swift's part as a romance-crazy high school student is reduced to a half-dozen quick scenes of her giggling.

This film is like a Hallmark card — designed to quickly elicit an emotional reaction with the promise of little more.

Even with its flaws, "Valentine's Day" is an ideal date movie. It has enough hunks and babes to hold the attention of both halves of a couple, yet it isn't deep enough to generate any potential squabbles.

Valentine's Day

Grade: C-plus

Rating: PG-13 (sexual situations, brief partial nudity)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Jennifer Garner, Emma Roberts, Jessica Alba, Jessica Alba, Patrick Demspey, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Taylor Swift. Directed by Garry Marshall.

Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes.

(c) 2010, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).

Visit The Fresno Bee online at http://www.fresnobee.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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