Despite Valentine’s Day marketing itself as an all-star, Hollywood, don’t-call-it-a-cash-in rom-com, it is in many ways a Bollywood comedy, set in LA.
It came as absolutely no surprise that, about an hour and forty five minutes in to Valentine’s Day – the timely new film by Garry Marshall - there was an enormous Indian wedding song and dance routine. For, despite Valentine’s Day marketing itself as an all-star, Hollywood, don’t-call-it-a-cash-in rom-com, it is in many ways a Bollywood comedy, set in LA.
Firstly, it is long. Sweet mother of Rudolph Valentino, it is long – two hours long by our watch. Which belies the rather simple plot: one Valentine’s Day in the life of an unlikely collection of LA residents as they fall in, out and through love.
Secondly, everyone and everything in the film is ludicrously good looking. This is a film where Anne Hathaway is an admin assistant who talks dirty on her mobile for a little extra cash. Where a florist can live in a pastel painted canal-side house in Little Venice. Where Jessica Garner is a primary school teacher. No disrespect to Mrs Tatton, but my primary school teacher certainly did not wear five inch wedges and go out in skin-tight couture (at least, not when we were around.)
In Valentine’s Day the sun is always shining, LA is as fresh and bright as a washing powder commercial and no-one really has to do any work. Like Shahrukh Khan’s Mumbai, the LA of Valentine’s Day is a fantastic, spotless simulacrum of the city that only sleeps during surgery.
The film is also reminiscent of Bollywood in terms of the sheer size of the cast. Take a look at that poster; this is a film with name weight. Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Patrick Dempsey, Queen Latifah- the list goes on and on. Over the course of Valentine’s Day there are seven couples, a couple of cameos (most surprisingly Mel of Flight of the Conchords fame) and a healthy supporting cast.
The set pieces, most often provided by rather hammy and two-dimensional, if not straight-down offensive, ‘foreigners’ were like something from low-budget Malyalam comedies. People fall over, cute kids back-chat, pretty girls carry around enormous teddy bears and old people make public fools of themselves.
But back to that wedding scene. There the couple were, celebrating their recent nuptials, when Jennifer Garner starts smacking all holy hagga out of a heart-shaped piñata. Then Jamie Foxx turns up and starts playing the piano (since Ray, a quick tinkling of the ivories is most likely in all his contracts), a teenage couple talk about the importance of abstinence in the back of a van and everyone in the restaurant starts to dance.
If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then you’re in for a treat. If it sounds like a load of schmaltzy, naff, ridiculousness then maybe just stay in this Valentine’s Day.
If a day dedicated to anonymous lust piques your anticipation, then you’ll probably be pretty excited about this. If you think that the February 12 release date is cynical commercialism, then you probably have other plans.
After about an hour the glow severely begins to fade.
This film is going to make money hand over fist. It’s got the stars, the budget, the soundtrack and the subject matter to guarantee a hit this Valentine’s Day. You might not approve of it, but you've sort of got to admire it.