Someday someone will write a film-school doctoral thesis on movie directors who got their start in the TV sitcoms of the 1970s, several of whom spun off from the Happy Days axis: Ron Howard. Penny Marshall. Rob Reiner (OK, he wasn't in Happy Days - but he was once married to Penny Marshall and he was a sitcom star of the 1970s). And, of course, Garry Marshall.
Each has had a couple of hits, but none of them will be remembered for the strength, breadth or depth of their output, though Howard and Reiner actually have made some worthwhile films. (Indeed, I'd give Reiner a pass on all the crap he made in the past decade for the simple fact of having directed This Is Spinal Tap, a film as influential in its own way as Pulp Fiction.)
Garry Marshall is another story. While he's directed hits (principally, Pretty Woman, a film that succeeded on the strength of Julia Roberts' star power, rather than the script or filmmaking), he's never made a movie that put it all together - one that didn't, in the end, have the same needy attributes as an untrained puppy. Yeah, they're cute - and?
Yet somehow he manages to keep making movies - and attracting big names to star in them. Exhibit A: Valentine's Day, a movie that wants to do for that Hallmark holiday what Richard Curtis' far superior - and infinitely funnier - Love Actually did for Christmas: exploit it to make a romantic comedy.
Just one problem: Valentine's Day isn't funny. At all. I believe I laughed out loud exactly twice. Once involved a gag by George Lopez, who is an ancillary character. The other involved comedian Larry Miller, who popped up for a cameo as a harried airline counter employee.
But the jokes, the slapstick, the character comedy? Nada. Nothing. Barely a titter. I'm usually ready to give even a weak film its props if it can make me laugh, but this film repeatedly falls flat.
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