Review: 'Valentine's Day'

(Two-and-a-half stars)

Celebrated director Garry Marshall assembles an impressive A-list cast for this mediocre romantic comedy about everyone's favorite -- or most reviled -- Hallmark holiday.

Varied characters and storylines weave together on Feb. 14 in the city of angels. Ashton Kutcher headlines as flower-shop owner Reed Bennett, a heart-on-his-sleeve fellow eager to wed his ambivalent girlfriend (Jessica Alba). Reed's best friend is sensitive elementary-school teacher Julia Fitzpatrick (Jennifer Garner), who is being romanced by a two-timing doctor (Patrick Dempsey).

Julia's gal pal, Kara (Jessica Biel), is a neurotic PR exec whose prized client is a near-retirement pro quarterback (Eric Dane) with a blockbuster secret -- and sports reporter Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx) is eager for the scoop. Other fringe dynamics include a pair of airplane passengers (Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper) getting to know each other on a 14-hour flight; a nauseatingly chipper set of high-school sweethearts (Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner); been-together-forever couple Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle (Shirley MacLaine); and young lovers Jason (Topher Grace) and Liz (Anne Hathaway).

George Lopez (as one of Reed's employees) and Queen Latifah (as Liz's boss) help with the laugh factor. Confused by the cornucopia ensemble? You're not alone. The biggest problem with "Valentine's Day" is that the big-name cast is distracting, and it doesn't allow the audience to get very attached to any one character.

Some of the actors fare better than others. Kutcher and Garner shine (albeit with the meatiest roles), while Hathaway serves up the best performance. Country singer Swift is more irritating than endearing, and her scenes with real-life boyfriend Lautner scream "vanity project." The relationship between Edgar and Estelle is touching, but MacLaine is looking far too mannequin-esque these days. It's almost unsettling.

Still, the script is sporadically clever and there's plenty of V-Day cheer to make even the grumpiest loners crack a smile. This is a decent date movie -- not great, but not terrible. And it will likely be a long time before we see this many recognizable actors together again in one film.

Geared more toward women than men, "Valentine's Day" is harmless romantic fare. But with a cast that reads like the Vogue Oscar party guest list, it should have been can't-miss cinema instead of standard Hollywood schmaltz.

Rated PG-13 for some sexual material and brief partial nudity. 1 hour, 30 minutes.

— Tyler Hanley

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