What happens when you give a big director unlimited money to hire unlimited big-name actors, and unlimited free rein to do whatever he wants with a film? In the case of Garry Marshall and Valentine's Day, he makes a really bad movie. It seems that what he wanted was to make an American version of Love Actually but here's the difference: plot, characters, dialogue, acting. Not to say that Love Actually was the best film ever made but most people can agree that it's a clever and enjoyable one. Do not make the mistake of thinking the same about Valentine's Day (available now on DVD). It's predictable, it's disjointed and many of these first-rate actors turn in second-rate performances. None of them have enough on-screen time for us to get to know or like their characters or for them to undergo any significant development.

Here's the dazzling list: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, and Julia Roberts, no less. The list keeps going. Yet none of them have enough on-screen time for us to get to know or like their characters or for them to undergo any significant development (this is fortunate in the case of Taylor Swift, whose acting is truly, truly awful). It's all a mish-mash of the various characters' experiences with a Valentine's Day gone awry and how ultimately they're all interconnected; once again, insert Christmas instead of Valentine's Day and you have Love Actually with some moments actually stolen from the British flick! Towards the end, which can't come soon enough, some of the characters gather for an "I Hate Valentine's Day Party," in which the only amusing moment of the movie occurs, Jennifer Garner smashing a heart-shaped pinata to bits - a scene used in the trailer, so we've already enjoyed it.


However, this "I Hate Valentine's Day" party brought to mind another, even worse film which cannot be omitted in our Valentine's Day-themed review, and it's a movie from Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame, called, in fact, I Hate Valentine's Day. This movie simply begs the question, "What is wrong with Nia Vardalos?" At the beginning of the movie she plants a simpering grin on her face which never budges, no matter what the situation. The premise: she is a girl (and not a young one) who only dates a guy five times. No matter how much she likes him, only five times. And no sex. Her reason? Because after five times the fun is gone, which may lead viewers to wonder: but if there's no sex, where's the fun? The movie meanders through a variety of holidays for the first 45 minutes with nothing of interest happening, which is when this reviewer turned it off, so perhaps it got better. It's doubtful. In the end, whether you happen to like the holiday, Valentine's Day, or hate it, neither of these movies is for you. If you simply want some entertainment with which to pass your time, choose the former over the latter - at least you'll have some pretty faces to admire.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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