A florist with severe, long-simmering relationship issues, Genevieve (Nia Vardalos) holds to a strict rule of five dates before she casts off potential boyfriends, protecting herself from the inevitable decline of passion. Into her life comes Greg (John Corbett), a single guy who doesn't understand women, hoping to channel his focus into his own tapas bar. Immediatley attracted to each other, Genevieve and Greg decide to ride out the five date routine, only to find their flirtations develop into love. Greg, sensing the end of the dating decree nearing, reluctantly leaves Genevieve behind. Genevieve, realizing she's made a mistake, is forced to confront her male issues, preferably before Greg moves on to another woman.
Last summer, Nia Vardalos starred in "My Life in Ruins," a disastrous romantic comedy that made a superb case for the actress to squash her film dream altogether. However, for "Valentine's Day," Vardalos has newfound control. Starring, scripting, and directing the picture, Vardalos has been permitted every opportunity to scrape away the artery-clogging muck that often stymies the romantic comedy genre. She's been handed the keys to her own motion picture and given license to take her imagination as far as a low-budget and sky-high cinematic hopes take you these days. Depressingly, Vardalos has elected to make the same nondescript junk as everyone else, hoping once again to coast on her beaming "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fame to resuscitate her fledgling career.
With gay best friends, karaoke sequences, modern art mockery, he said/she said confusion, vociferous Noo Yawk neighborhood support (including Rachel Dratch, Judah Friedlander, and Zoe Kazan), and a host of beleaguered male stereotypes, Vardalos imagines the battlefield of love as a screenplay stitched together from a thousand other screenplays, rehashing the rules of attraction with all the compelling resourcefulness of a rejected CW sitcom pilot. "Valentine's Day" isn't exactly the cancel-the-afternoon-plans-and-bring-me-a-loaded-shotgun disgrace "Ruins" was, but the exhausting formula, and Vardalos's staunch support of mediocrity, is brutal on the senses. The film plays easy to persuade wide acceptance, but Vardalos overcooks the kindness, making a slightly poisonous concept frustratingly flavorless.
Vardalos aims to please, and the casting of her "Greek Wedding" co-star Corbett is a step toward reigniting her previous success. The two share passable chemistry, but their individual approaches to the script are wildly diverse. Corbett slaps on the easy, everyday handsome loser suit, playing dim but lovable, like he always does. Vardalos heads in the opposite direction, turning on the personality high beams as though she's aware the pages are worthless. It's a slightly surreal piece of acting meant to communicate a sexual confidence formed over years of emotional distance. However, it often registers as a cartoon voice audition reel, with spazzy facial responses and other idiosyncratic behaviors creeping further into the work as the film unspools. It's a strange Cheshire Cat performance that reads as desperate. With the material failing to generate any laughs, Vardalos has resorted to eye-bulging and smirking to encourage moderate results.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation on this DVD leaves much to be desired. Skintones are unnaturally hot throughout the film, while overall colors are boosted to cartoonish levels at times, distracting from the business at hand. Black levels are stable with nighttime sequences, but some EE problems are prevalent.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is expectedly contained, intended more to communicate dramatics than mood. Soundtrack selections are forceful enough, carrying into surround channels to provide a feeling of immersion. Dialogue exchanges are easy understood, blended well with city street atmospherics.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered
The feature-length audio commentary with writer/director/star Nia Vardalos and producers Jason Schuman and William Sherak spends much of the time reminding the listener that the film was shot in 18 days. It's actually more of a technical track than expected, with the opening section devoted to the intricate financing of the picture, where investors demanded Vardalos pair with Corbett for maximum marquee value. The conversation is lively and interesting, if a bit piercing when the director hits shrill notes of excitement. The trio has much to share on the madness and insane compromise of low-budget filmmaking, providing a fulfilling commentary experience.
A Theatrical Trailer has been included.
Of course, there's a domestic disturbance price for Genevieve to pay before her heart can be freed, giving the actors some flabby dramatics to chew on and permits a break-up-to-make up finale that wheelbarrows out some syrupy cutes. "I Hate Valentine's Day" hopes to climax on a comforting, whimsical note, but the damage has been done. By the time the end credits hit, there's joy emerging not from the outcome of the Genevieve/Greg romantic tango, but the feeling of relief to know the film, and Vardalos's insipid direction, has finally come to a close.
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