Dane and Cooper can’t save ‘Valentine’s Day’

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imageHollywood A-listers dominate virtually every frame of the new film “Valentine’s Day,” but not even a gay subplot between Eric Dane and Bradley Cooper can redeem its many missteps.

In Garry Marshall’s romantic comedy opening Friday, two dozen Los Angelinos fall in and out of love on the Day of Romance. Florist Ashton Kutcher has picked this day to propose to his girlfriend Jessica Alba, while struggling with whether or not to share some unpleasant news with his best friend Jennifer Garner about the doctor (Patrick Dempsey) she is seeing.

Topher Grace is dating Anne Hathaway, who turns out to be a part time sex phone operator, while Jamie Foxx is a sports anchor assigned to do a Valentine’s Day puff piece. The Taylors (Swift and Lautner) also appear as giggling high school sweeties.

And so on.

Before the day is over, best friends become lovers, characters learn to—adjust your seats, folks!—love the one they’re with, warts and all, and unexpected romance occurs, until most everyone is matched up.

imageThe trailers for the film have downplayed the gay angle, but as we told you several weeks back, Eric Dane and Bradley Cooper (top photo, l-r) do play gay. Not only do promos de-gay the flick, but we were unable to find a single photo online of the two actors in the same frame of the movie. We do like the shirtless-on-the-beach pairing our dirty minds led us to (second photo). In contrast, photos of kisses between the Taylors and Kutcher-Alba can be found in abundance.

Dane is a football star who gives a revealing press conference about his professional – and personal – life, while newly single Cooper is a business man who shares a plane ride with a soldier coming home for a day from war (Julia Roberts, of all people).

Though promising, the Cooper-Roberts episode is as underdeveloped as all of the other segments in “Valentine’s Day.” The two share small talk and strike up a bond, making assumptions about the other that are ultimately way off.

Ultimately, Dane and Cooper only share one scene together, and while neither play stereotypical characters, neither are given anything of substance to work with.

Katherine Fugate’s assembled-over-a-coffee-break script conveniently interconnects almost all the characters, but it’s a narrative mess. Some of the performers have charming moments (especially Garner, Jessica Biel and Shirley MacLaine with Hector Elizondo as a longtime married couple). Others, like Kathy Bates and Queen Latifah, have only a handful of meaningless scenes.

A few episodes could easily have been dropped, primarily Emma Roberts’ (Julia’s niece) lifeless teenybopper love story and the absurd Grace-Hathaway pairing. Hathaway’s character has so much debt, we are led to believe, that she can’t even enjoy a Valentine’s Day dinner without sneaking out for a little dominatrix talk.

The two best moments of the film, ironically, do belong to Julia Roberts: one the revelation of the man she is coming home to see, and the other an outtake poking fun at “Pretty Woman.” Yet, like the gay angle, they’re not really worth the wait.

“Valentine’s Day” opens Feb. 12.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He is the director of the annual Out On Film, Atlanta’s gay and lesbian film festival, and has been a theater critic for more than a dozen years.

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