Yes, Kristen Schaal has a bit part in each of these 2010 Winter Rom Coms. Yay Kristen Schaal!
Valentine's Day = B
Written by Katherine Fugate, Directed by Garry Marshall
I'm a sucker for these huge ensemble casts. Whether it be the more developed ones by Woody Allen or Robert Altman or these commercial ones that cobble together any star that will sign on. With papa Garry Marshall at the helm, seems like every former TV star-now movie star has signed on (Jennifer Garner and Bradley Cooper from Alias, Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace from That 70's Show, Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane from Grey's Anatomy, Jessica Alba from Dark Angel, Queen Latifah from Living Single, Jamie Foxx from The Jamie Foxx Show, George Lopez from The George Lopez Show, Emma Roberts from Unfabulous, Hector Elizondo from Chicago Hope, Jessica Biel from 7th Heaven, Anne Hathaway from Get Real). With some gratuitous young love thrown in (The Taylor's Swift and Lautner) and his go-to girl, ultimate movie star Julia Roberts (who nicely acknowledges her Pretty Woman hooker days on Rodeo drive in a funny throwaway scene), Garry manages a less than brilliant but still somewhat satisfying Hollywood rom-com that solidly delivers what a movie based on a Hallmark holiday should.
And yes, I loved watching the different stars interact with each other. Seeing Julia Roberts back with her Three Days of Rain co-star Bradley Cooper (who has since become a huge movie star himself) was delightful. Watching Sydney Bristow (er, Jennifer Garner) fall for McDreamy (er Patrick Dempsey) was like watching the fan-fiction fantasy of having the ABC lineup converge together finally come true. A terrific Anne Hathaway hides her phone-sex job from both Topher Grace and Queen Latifah and just makes me love Anne even more!
Of course, how you enjoy each character and plotline depends on how you like the actor themselves. Never been a fan of Alba, so that's used to an advantage here, while Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner uses their innate likability to their advantage. Eric Dane uses his chest and abs to his advantage.
Sadly Taylor Lautner does not, in a story with Taylor Swift that has no reason and thyme other than to have their pretty faces on screen as a teenage couple in young love (though was it me or did Lautner seem not so into Swift and more into his best friend Alex?). Alex (Carter Jenkens) has the better teenage story with Emma Roberts, plus Jenkens gets to show off what Lautner doesn't (hehe).
Never been a fan of Biel or Foxx but both (with some help from the always awesome Kathy Bates) fare pretty well with Biel winning me over.
Shirley MacLaine gets to have a split second reunion with Steel Magnolias co-star Julia Roberts, and as always, Marshall assembles Julia, Hector Elizondo and Larry Miller back into the same movie as it should be!
The script isn't genius, and the different storylines don't hold as well as Love Actually, but Valentine's Day is far superior to last years large-ensemble-rom-com effort He's Just Not That Into You.
When in Rome = D+
Written by David Diamond & David Weissman, Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
While the ads for When In Rome only show Kristen Bell (who they (including me) really want to turn into a movie star based on her awesomeness in Veronica Mars) and Josh Duhamel (who I admit, is really really pretty), the film is actually has a bigger starry ensemble than they've advertised. Strangely a first and quite some restraint from the marketing department!
Sadly, even with Danny Devito, Anjelica Huston, Will Arnet, Jon Heder, Peggy Lipton or Don Johnson (WHA?!) could save this tedious excuse for a romantic comedy, a genre that already gets a bad rapt just because Hollywood keeps throwing out duds like this one (instead of intelligent ones like (500) Days of Summer).
The script, written by two men, almost seem like a frat boy joke on bender night who dared themselves to write a romantic comedy, then tried to Hangover the script so that they themselves could enjoy it. Instead, the film comes off with a scattered story (even though the initial concept could have been quite fun) and some painfully awkward "comedic" bits.
Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel really are lovely but an awkward script and beautiful scenes in both Rome and New York (oh, is THAT why they all signed on to the movie?) can't save this. Bell and Duhamel deserve far better (as does Devito, Huston and Arnet).
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com
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