Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Hate Valentine's Day

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Vardalos Makes Directorial Debut with Disappointing Sitcom

If there ever was the cinematic equivalent of a one-hit wonder, it’s Nia Vardalos. In 2002, she won the world’s heart when she co-starred in the charming screen adaptation of her play, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But judging by the junk she’s served up since then, you have to wonder how so much potential could have possibly vanished into thin air.
First, she wrote, produced and starred in the TV version of Big Fat which was so unwatchable it was canceled after only seven episodes. Then, she took credit for writing and co-starred in a thinly-veiled remake of Some Like It Hot called Connie and Carla which failed to measure up to the Marilyn Monroe classic.
After five years of ostensibly self-imposed exile, Nia has returned with back-to-back romantic comedies. My Life in Ruins was released in June, but was so poorly received that it’s already out of theaters. Now, she’s foisting the dreadful I Hate Valentine's Day on what’s left of her disillusioned fan base.
The picture marks not only Ms. Vardalos’ directorial debut but her screen reunion with John Corbett, who was her love interest in Big Fat. But don’t expect to see them regenerate any of that magic up, even though he’s again playing the object of her affection.
Set in NYC, the plot unfolds promisingly enough. Genevieve Gernier (Vardalos) is the owner of Roses for Romance, a flower shop located in lower Manhattan. At the point of departure, Greg Gatlin (Corbett), a bachelor from Georgia, is in the process of renovating a restaurant on the same block.
Sparks fly, yet Genevieve is reluctant to date the dapper Southern gentleman, because she thinks romance is overrated, the name of her store notwithstanding. But egged on by a gay Greek chorus comprised of her two effeminate employees, she decides to give it a go, only after laying down the law, namely, that the relationship must end after exactly five dates. However, she has a change of heart at that juncture, setting us up for the quite predictable happily ever after.
The plentiful problems with I Hate Valentine's Day rest not only in the leads’ lackluster liaison but in the insulting stereotypes served up as support characters. From Genevieve’s annoyingly-flamboyant assistants to a sassy sister who tells Greg to “Make that booty call!” to a deferential Asian woman who meekly puts up with being treated like a piece of meat by Greg’s best friend, you wonder how the same woman responsible for Greek Wedding could have written such a cringe-inducing mess.
A big fat Greek flop.

Poor (½ star)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality.
Running time: 89 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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