What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Valentine's Day is an ensemble romantic comedy from director Garry Marshall -- which stars everyone from Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, and Anne Hathaway to teen faves Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift -- that features relationships in various stages, from sweet childhood crushes and hormone-driven teen matchups to confusing adult connections and mature, enduring love. Characters kiss, teens talk about having sex, unmarried couples are seen in bed together, and a man cheats on his wife. There’s a sense that you're incomplete without a partner, and that finding true love isn’t easy – and yet everything has a fairy-tale feel in the end. Expect some swearing (including "s--t") and a few raunchy conversations.
What's the story?
It’s Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles, and depending on your circumstances, it’s either a day of delight or dread. Florist Reed (Ashton Kutcher) starts the day by proposing to his girlfriend (Jessica Alba), and everyone is amazed that she says yes. His best friend, Julia (Jennifer Garner), a teacher, wants to surprise her doctor boyfriend (Patrick Dempsey), who says he has to work. Meanwhile, a soldier (Julia Roberts) on a short break from Iraq is flying home to see her special someone; her seatmate (Bradley Cooper) tries to puzzle her out. And a phone-sex purveyor (Anne Hathaway) is falling in love with a colleague at her day job (Topher Grace), who knows nothing about her other gig, while a professional athlete (Eric Dane) wonders what’s next now that his contract is up. For them -- and for many others -- it’s make-or-break time.
Is it any good?
If anyone can make a great romantic comedy, director Garry Marshall -- whose credits include Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries -- is it. In many ways, VALENTINE’S DAY has many of the signature Marshall touches: the sweetly satisfying moments between new lovers (certainly evident in the Hathaway-Grace pairing), the fluid storytelling, the sense of humor. But a few perfect moments do not a perfect movie make. It may end up being a crowd pleaser, but it's hyper-engineered to the hilt and ends up feeling packaged and crowded with marquee names and made-for-the-tabloids matchups. (Taylors Swift and Lautner, that’s you.)
What ultimately makes love such a compelling topic is its mysterious, ineffable quality, and there’s none of that jazz-improv magic here. Kutcher and Garner’s storyline, though traditional in its unraveling, feels most satisfying. (Marshall makes the most of Kutcher’s man-boy charms, and the actor steps up his game.) Hector Elizondo and Shirley MacLaine’s comes second, but their plot doesn’t really have room to unspool. Some picking and pruning would’ve made for a more stunning bouquet; it’s all baby’s breath and red roses -- the expected stuff -- as it stands.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what Valentine’s Day means, if anything. Is it really manufactured, and does it make people who aren’t with someone on that day feel bad? Can it be a chance to focus on a relationship for a day, or does it just breed consumerism?
Does the film approach the topic of love any differently from other romantic comedies? Are all the pairings and their subsequent conclusions believable?
How does the film portray dating and romance? Ask your teens if this is what they think adult relationships are really like.