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'Valentine's Day' forever

Published February 16. 2010 05:00PM

"Valentine's Day" is a fluffy, often amusing romantic comedy with an alphabet list of some 20 Hollywood stars.

The ensemble cast to end ensemble casts includes first names starting in J: Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts; T: Topher Grace, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift; A: Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher; B: Bradley Cooper, Bryce Robinson; and E: Eric Dane, Emma Roberts.

The list goes on: Carter Jenkins, George Lopez, Hector Elizondo, Kathy Bates, Queen Latifah, Patrick Dempsey and Shirley MacLaine. Cameos are Joe Mantegna as an irate motorist, and the movie's director, Garry Marshall, as a classical musician.

So, where to begin to sort out the plot-heavy screenplay by Katherine Fugate (TV's "Army Wives"), based on a story by Fugate, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (co-writers, "He's Just Not That Into You," "Never Been Kissed") and also to not give away several spoilers?

The premise is a day in the life, here, Valentine's Day, of cross-generational cupidity: elementary school students (Robinson and Megan Suri) two teen couples (Emma Roberts and Jenkins; Swift and Lautner); several twenty-, thirty- and forty-something couples (Garner and Dempsey, Kutcher and Alba, Biel and Fox, Hathaway and Grace) and a senior married couple (MacLaine and Elizondo).

The story revolves around an independent Los Angeles florist (Kutcher) and his assistant (Lopez).

The dialogue is sometimes clever ("e.e cummings. He had me at the font."). There's advice to remember ("When you pick a valentine, you have to make sure it's the right person.").

Kutcher is a standout with his doofus charm. Biel has a nice comedic turn. Hathaway is charmingly hilarious. Latifah is funny. Swift is unabashedly geeky. Garner and Roberts have resplendent moments. Dempsey again proves why his career has longevity.

Marshall, the go-to-guy to direct chicks' flicks ("The Princess Diaries," "Runaway Bride," "Pretty Woman," "Beaches") capably marshals up the large cast. At slightly more than two hours, the movie seems longer than a bad first date.

The movie provides an L.A. travelogue of well-known and not so well-known sights (The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Hollywood Magic, Hollywood Forever Cemetery).

"Valentine's Day" is a guilty pleasure for red-carpet Hollywood awards-show gawkers (that would be me). Take a friend or your favorite Valentine.

"Valentine's Day": MPAA-Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some sexual material and brief partial nudity; Genre: Comedy, Romance; Run time: 2 hrs., five mins.; Distributed by New Line Cinema-Warner Bros.

Credit Readers' Anonymous: "Valentine's Day" closing credits includes blooper out-takes. Stay to the very end for an aerial view of a high school band marching to the beat of a heart and its outline. Shirley MacLaine takes a bow in front of an outdoor screening of "Hot Spell" (1958), starring, yep, Shirley MacLaine. Taylor Swift sings the "Fairy Tale" title song.

Box Office, Feb. 12: Cupid's arrow hit the box office bull's-eye. "Valentine's Day" opened with $52.4 million and an estimated $67 million for the four-day holiday weekend, setting a Presidents' Day weekend record phenomenal for a romantic comedy, albeit one packed with more stars than Spago Beverly Hills.

Fantasy and horror proved no match for love, with "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" opening at No. 2, with $31.1 million, squeezing by "The Wolfman," opening at No. 3, with $30.6 million.

"Avatar" dropped from No. 2 to No. 4, with a still robust "$22 million, $659.6 million, nine weeks, and went back ahead of "Dear John," starring Allentown's Amanda Seyfried, dropping precipitously from No. 1 to No. 5, with $15.3 million, $53.1 million, two weeks.

6. "Tooth Fairy," $5.6 million, $41.5 million, four weeks; 7. "From Paris with Love," $4.7 million, $15.8 million, two weeks; 8. "Edge of Darkness," $4.5 million, $36 million, three weeks; 9. "Crazy Heart," $4 million, $16.5 million, nine weeks; 10. When in Rome," $3.4 million, $26 million, three weeks;

Unreel, Feb. 19: Director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio reunite for "Shutter Island." It's their fourth collaboration after "The Departed," "The Aviator" and "Gangs of New York." In the psychological thriller set in 1954, U.S. Marshals (DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) track an escaped psychotic killer (Emily Mortimer). The movie is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote "Gone Baby Gone" and "Mystic River." It also stars Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow and Michelle Williams.

"The Ghost Writer" stars Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Catrall, James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson and Eli Wallach in a Hitchcockian thriller. A writer (McGregor) uncovers secrets while working on the memoir of a former British prime minister (Brosnan). The movie is based on a Robert Harris novel, who also wrote "Enigma."

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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