Saturday, February 13, 2010

Truth in advertising

The first time I heard there was a movie called Valentine's Day scheduled for release (when else) this February, I thought, Hollywood has finally done it: Removed all pretense of trying to make us think we're buying a piece of art rather than a commodity.

This is the first movie I can remember being quite this naked about wanting to top the box office on Valentine's Day weekend. It would be like calling a movie Christmas or Fourth of July. They'll get close -- like Independence Day or A Christmas Carol -- but never just the name of the big box office weekend in question, flapping around there in the nude for all to see. Last year's I Hate Valentine's Day is a good example of dressing the title up with even one layer of irony/artifice/removal.

But nope, Valentine's Day it is. I should mention that it's far from the first movie to be called Valentine's Day. In fact, IMDB cites half a dozen examples from the last decade alone. But those movies were either made for TV movies, short films, or foreign films.

So Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day, the one coming out today, is the first one we can actually call out for being so blatant about its intentions. It basically says, "Look, honey, you don't even have to think about it. This is where you should plop down your thirteen bucks on Valentine's Day weekend."

It's even got the "a little something for everybody" approach mastered by He's Just Not That Into You last year, with a record fifteen (15) different familiar faces on the poster. (I have no idea if that's a record, but it should be.) If I didn't know this movie was supposed to be a Robert Altman-style look at a single Valentine's Day in the lives of a half-dozen couples, I might be tempted to call it He's Just Not That Into You 2. That number 15 worries me, though -- it's an odd number, so somebody's getting left out in the cold.

What's even funnier is that there are four additional names listed on the poster, who didn't make the cut for the finite real estate within that heart-shaped enclosure. That's a total of 19. We shouldn't be surprised to hear three of the four names that were excluded, as they are all over 60: Kathy Bates, Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo, who may have appeared in every single one of Garry Marshall's films. (Jesus Christ, I wasn't kidding -- I just looked it up on IMDB, and they have sixteen (16) joint ventures.) The fourth name, Eric Dane, has reason to be pissed -- he's only 37, and is attractive enough that they nicknamed him "McSteamy" on Grey's Anatomy. His rivalry with "McDreamy" (Patrick Dempsey) just got a notch more serious, as Dempsey made the poster.

Other funny inclusions in the cast:

1. Julia Roberts. Damn, she must really have a soft spot for her Pretty Woman director. You'd think it would be Marshall who would owe her after Runaway Bride.

2. Anne Hathaway. Funny, because I likened her to a young Julia Roberts in my review of The Princess Diaries nine years ago.

3. Jamie Foxx. Really Jamie Foxx? I thought you were a serious actor now.

4. Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner. This movie is crackling with immediacy ... except that the two Taylors are now broken up.

5. Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba. THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

6. Bradley Cooper. Hard to believe, but he's apparently the only one who appears in both He's Just Not That Into You and Valentine's Day, though doesn't Emma Roberts (bottom) look a lot like Jennifer Connelly in this picture?

7. Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace. It's a That 70's Show reunion! By the way, I never like to pass up an opportunity to say that I hate Ashton Kutcher.

8. Queen Latifah. Since there are exactly two black actors in the cast, does that mean she's getting paired up with Jamie Foxx? Talk about tokenism.

9. Jennifer Garner. Wasn't there a time when Jennifer Garner didn't take every crappy romantic comedy that was thrown her way?

10. George Lopez. I just figured out which of the 15 gets left out in the cold. There's no Latina in the cast, so Lopez must be the lovable, asexual clown. Unless he's gay and getting together with Elizondo.

Anyway, I'm not going to see it.

Not until November, anyway.

Ha! Joke's on you, Valentine's Day.

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