Sweet & Sour: Valentine's Day Is As Bad As You've Heard


The following is a desperate plea to any curious souls who might think going to see the star-over-studded “romantic” “comedy” Valentine’s Day this weekend is a decent idea. It’s too late for me, but you can still save yourselves.

Before I begin trashing this movie, there is something you need to know: after originally hating it for the sin of being one long montage, I have surrendered and now own Love, Actually on DVD. On the weekend He’s Just Not That Into You came out, I was not only there, but I’d arranged for eight friends to join me (albeit with contraband mini-bottles of cheap wine in our purses.) I honestly and truly liked last summer’s rom-com blockbuster The Proposal, for God’s sake. In all honestly, there probably isn’t a romantic comedy released in the past ten years that I haven’t seen, at least on Netflix. (Yes, even Bride Wars. And All About Steve.) I’m not some kind of person who thinks she’s above chick flicks. Far from it. So even though the trailer made my spine hurt with its transparent pandering to the stereotype of the lonely single woman, I always knew I would see this winter’s cast-of-thousands romantic extravaganza, Valentine’s Day. In fact, even before I ended up catching a screening earlier this week, the plans were set for another “chick flick field trip” this weekend, and it was going to be my job to bring the little bottles of wine.

But seconds after the last “hysterical” outtake rolled during the credits, I whipped out my phone, exhausted, and texted a friend with whom I’d planned to see the movie: “Under no circumstances are you to see Valentine’s Day. Ever. You will walk out. It’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

That text was, of course, written in the heat of passion: Valentine’s Day isn’t actually the worst movie I’ve ever seen, because it’s far too boring and forgettable for that. By now everyone knows the “plot” of the movie: a bunch of characters experience tiny story arcs over the course of one illogically all-encompassing Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. (Seriously, in the fantastical world of this movie, Valentine’s Day is a holiday so big it’s bigger than Christmas, bigger in fact than any holiday we have in America, taking over the lives of every character, from a wee child to adult men and women with jobs to wise old elderly folks. It’s absurd.) Suffice it to say that not one of these characters or their easily-tied-up “problems” are more compelling than a sitcom clip show, or low-budget children’s television (which it actually, a few cliched dirty jokes aside, most resembles). This movie has the emotional depth of an (over) two-hour episode of Saved By the Bell, but without the nostalgia element to make it palatable. If you’ve read even one review of the movie, or even if you haven’t, there will be no surprises — not a single one. Everyone ends up making the decisions you know they will make as the film plods on, and even if the movie’s only “surprises” haven’t already been spoiled for you by the internet, you’ll figure them out ahead of time based on the simple math of how many characters are left over who haven’t been matched up yet — it’s like that preschooler’s game, “Memory.” But it’s a movie. A long, boring, lazy movie. In which the only star with double-digit on-screen minutes is Ashton Kutcher.

Have I convinced you not to see it yet? Is part of you still holding on to the classic poorly-reviewed-movie rationalizations like: “But it’s cold outside, and maybe it’s so bad it’s good! Or maybe people will be talking about it and I won’t know what they’re talking about! Or maybe it will do what movies are supposed to do and give me a few moments of distraction from the stress of daily life and the depressing world in which we live”? If so: I promise you, no, no, and no. If you want to replicate the experience of seeing this movie, book a crowded four-hour (because it feels twice as long as it is) coach flight with no ipod, no reading material, not even SkyMall or the in-flight magazine, and just stare at the back of the seat the whole time while your legs cramp. You will be replicating the Valentine’s Day experience exactly. Fine, you can have some popcorn, but that’s it.

But, you say, surely there has to be some redeeming quality to this movie? Okay, here it is: Anne Hathaway is not terrible (though pretty much everyone else is.) So there’s five minutes! And unlike its spiritual ancestor Love, Actually, this movie has a gay storyline, so there’s about 1 minute! And (spoiler), the only part of the movie that will cause any part of your brain to light up with recognition or feel any emotion whatsoever comes during the aforementioned end-credit outtake sequence, when Julia Roberts is seen riding in the back of a limo and the driver says something like “This is the world-famous Rodeo Drive, have you ever done any shopping here?” and Julia smiles and answers “I did, once. Big mistake. Big. Huge.” You know, that famous line from Pretty Woman!:

If what I have described is worth over two hours of your precious life, hours you could (and still might) spend sleeping, by all means, see Valentine’s Day. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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