As a male film critic, even one who considers himself a fan of the genre, I know to maintain reasonable expectations when I'm watching most mainstream romantic comedies. Generally speaking, they're usually about simplistic conflicts, one-dimensional characters and common-denominator wish-fulfillment, and there's nothing wrong with that. But even acknowledging this, I nevertheless hold them to a minimal standard – namely, that the behavior on display is the sort that actual people would exhibit in real life. And sadly, Valentine's Day violates this perfectly reasonable rule. Instead, Garry Marshall's romantic comedy delivers plenty of wish fulfillment without managing to offer anything remotely fulfilling.
Ashton Kutcher (What Happens In Vegas) plays Reed, an overzealous florist who proposes to his girlfriend Morley (Jessica Alba) on Valentine's Day. It's his business, and his story, that forms the throughline for the other relationships in the film, each of which is lumbering towards its own mini- or mega-milestone: elementary-school teacher Julia (Jennifer Garner) discovers that the handsome doctor (Patrick Dempsey) she loves lives a second, secret life; after a night of passion, mailroom clerk Jason (Topher Grace) and personal assistant Liz (Anne Hathaway) struggle to tell each other how they feel; happily-married couple Edgar (Hector Elizondo) and Estelle (Shirley MacLaine) try to help their grandson Edison (Bryce Robinson) deliver flowers to a V-Day crush.
Meanwhile, Grace (Emma Roberts) begins to discover that you can't manufacture magic moments after she decides to give away her virginity to her boyfriend Alex (Carter Jenkins); Kara (Jessica Biel) struggles to juggle an overstuffed calendar, a disappointing love life and a holiday that she hates; and Holden (Bradley Cooper) and Kate (Julia Roberts) share a long flight home en route to see their loved ones, sharing their own romantic secrets along the way.