For all of you who may have enthusiastically ran into Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day this weekend (or dragged in by their girlfriends) there is a distinct possibility that you may have already forgotten who all the characters are. Or, at least, 20 of the 22 men and women so sketchily drawn by screenwriter Katharine Fugate that it was more fun to connect the dots between the actors resume than put any emotional investment into these paper mache cutouts. Alas, a trip around the one-dimensional wheel of the lovelorn might not be ideal for those who have suffered through it. But to those who have yet to experience a candidate for worst script of the decade, may this serve as a warning. MAJOR SPOILERS LAY AHEAD!
Reed Bennett (Ashton Kutcher)
Your de facto lead of the film in that he gets the most screen time to develop anything resembling an arc, Reed is a successful florist. On the morning of Valentine's Day he proposes to his girlfriend, Morley. She says yes much to the surprise of his male friend (and co-worker), Alphonso, and his female one, Julia. His business ethics are a little questionable - first stealing the TV spotlight from a competitor who struggles with English to plug his own store and then allowing a young boy to short him over $40 on an order - but he's a decent enough guy having a less than decent day. He has to decide whether or not to tell Julia that her boyfriend is a two-timing cad. He comes back home to a nearly empty home when Morley packs up everything including their dog. By the end of the day, is it too late to make the jump from the friend zone with Julia? Do you honestly care by then?
Morley Clarkson (Jessica Alba)
The infamous Morley, Reed's fiance for about seven hours. TV's The Bachelor has maintained longer engagements. She seems more than happy to take Reed's ring when she wakes up that morning, but what happens by the next time we see her? Why the change of heart other than some flimsy commitment phobia? Better yet, what happens to her after she leaves? We see her check into a fancy hotel with the dog and the last image we have is her walking the streets; presumably to show up in the proposed sequel waiting on the corner for her Richard Gere to come.
Edison (Bryce Robinson)
The film's version of Rain Man in that he's not very good with money. Actually he's just a little kid. No autism. Just an annoying little moppet meant to produce "awwwwww"'s with every line reading. With his mom gone, he lives with his grandparents. He buys an arrangement of flowers from Reed for a mystery female at his school (a mystery that is ruined if you have seen the trailer already.) The setup has all the makings of a Three's Company episode with mistaken suitors and misdeliveries. Instead we are misdirected in other ways until his missing flowers are replaced with a silver box originally meant for streetwalker Morley. Even after his crush is revealed and the last "awwwwww" is heard in the audience, we still hope for the moment when Thomas Sangster from Love Actually shows up to beat Edison with drumsticks.
Grace (Emma Roberts)
This is Edison's babysitter. She picks him up from school on the same day she plans to lose her virginity in-between classes to put a new spin on the Hot Lunch Program. Don't worry Mr & Mrs. Family Values, she is 18. That doesn't make her a very good babysitter though, losing Edison later in the day sometime after having second thoughts on ruining the sheets at home.
Alex (Carter Jenkins)
No babysitter fantasy for this poor dope. This 18-year-old finds that the best way to ease his girlfriend into a delicate deflowering is to go over to her house in the middle of the day and strip down buck naked in her bedroom. He covers up with a guitar for good measure, but leaves the door wide open leaving Grace's unsuspecting mother to get a look at his goods. Oh those crazy Palins.
Julia Fitzpatrick (Jennifer Garner)
Ah, Reed's soul mate. I know it. You know it. Everyone watching knows it. Intellectual equal? You be the judge. See, Julia is playing doctor with Harrison Copeland. She believes when he leaves first thing in the morning that he's headed to San Francisco to perform surgery when he's really headed to put his wedding band back on. Convinced that surprising him across state is the best romantic gesture on this day, she is ready to hop a plane only to apparently be stopped by Reed. (We never see her make the decision to leave the airport.) Not convinced by what Reed knows about her doctor suitor, she instead shows up at his clinic to ask his co-workers if he has a wife. One of the nurses somehow knows where the bad doctor will be having dinner with his wife, a restaurant where the Maitre 'D just happens to be the father of one of Julia's students. This allows Julia the opportunity to impersonate a waitress, graphically describe an evening special full of castration suggestions to the doctor and his wife and generally cause a giant scene potentially risking the job of her student's father. But that's not enough for Julia who heads to her friends anti-Valentine's Day party at an Indian restaurant and proceeds to create another scene, beating the hell out of a heart-shaped pinata with a baseball bat. After partying it up with a bunch of attractive women somehow alone this evening, she seeks out Reed to conform to the "right there in front of you" cliche of romantic comedies.
Dr. Harrison Copeland (Patrick Dempsey)
The bad doctor himself. Harrison is sleeping with Julia. He also has a wife and a kid. Instead of calling a florist to make a delivery like all the other non-romantic jerks who keep getting a chiding throughout the film, he goes in person to Reed's shop to make an order. Two orders actually. To two different addresses. Reed recognizes the name and breaches the florist/client confidentiality agreement by identifying Harrison's orders as to a wife and mistress. Harrison is later embarrassed with his wife by Julia on their evening out and is last seen in a hotel room watching TV with a pizza box on his bed. Possibly waiting for Morley to show up.
Pamela Copeland (Katherine LaNasa)
Oh, the poor Mrs. Doctor Copeland. Alone with her fancy big house and swanky L.A. life. She has no job to go to because the first we see of her she is swimming in her pool early in the day. Her well-toned bikini body suggests some pilate or yoga classes somewhere on her schedule in-between the giant divorce settlement she will eventually be getting. Boo-hoo!
Alphonso (George Lopez)
Hey, we have a minority. Alphonso is Reed's buddy and deliveryman. He is happily married which gives him license to dispense advice that moves lives to a different path, including Reed and the football player that rear ends him. His truck, that is, causing half of his orders to be spilled out all over the street.
Liz (Anne Hathaway)
This beauty with the whitest teeth on God's green Earth works as a receptionist for a talent agency. She is well ahead of Julia in making the leap from the friend zone to the bedroom with Jason, who works in the mailroom. Liz has a secret though that causes her to rush out on Jason in the morning. Is she the female equivalent of the bad doctor? No, she is just a phone sex operator that specializes in fetishes with a foreign accent. Perhaps a goof on Jennifer Jason Leigh's character from Robert Altman's Short Cuts, Liz also gives good phone while performing menial tasks. Like working at her cubicle within earshot of a full office. Liz is also the first phone sex specialist in history to pick up the phone without asking for a credit card. Hopefully Vladimir was on a pre-payment plan, because those student loans don't pay themselves.
Jason (Topher Grace)
Poor guy from the mailroom is dating one of the most beautiful women in Los Angeles. He can't figure out why she rushes out on him in the morning - even though they work at the same place. Then again, what do you expect from a guy who not only forgets that it is Valentine's Day because he believes it always falls on a Thursday. Most guys would kill to have a girlfriend good at role playing. But faster than Kramer can ask "what about the driver?", Jason discovers Liz's big secret, insults her and dumps her on the street. Yeah, where she belongs, right? Please. It is one thing for guys in movies to flip out when they discover their Madonna is some kind of Whore stripper; a fantasy scenario that still comes with the baggage of grinding on other horny men. But Liz is just talking dirty. Hell, join in dude and split the profits. If you need to see a cheating, washed-up actress profess her love during a movie in a cemetery to send you running back into the arms of a woman with a sexy mouth and a dirty mind who clearly wants you - you deserve to be alone on Valentine's Day.
Paula Thomas (Queen Latifah)
One of the film's two African-American characters, Paula is too busy with her job to pursue any romantic entanglements. She appears to be the only one on hand who isn't even aware what day it is. She is too worried about her quarterback client to get riled up about anything else. That includes not getting made at her receptionist, Liz, for allowing her phone sex habits to be heard on her personal line. Maybe Paula's coyness hides a kinkier side; the kind that comes out when she intercepts a call from the infamous Vladimir late in the evening.
Kara Monahan (Jessica Biel)
She is the publicist to a big name football star who hosts an annual I Hate Valentine's Day Party. You got that? Annual. Not in protest to the commercialism of it or as some feminist statement against men having to be reminded to romance up their ladies. No, she just doesn't have a date. Again. Annually. Hard to imagine why? Her turn-ons include candy and exercising. Plus she looks suspiciously like that gorgeous stripper from Powder Blue (without the comatose child) Yet she can't find a man who would want her. A white man, at least.
Kelvin Moore (Jamie Foxx)
He's a second-tier sports reporter sent out by his producer to do a human interest story on Valentine's Day. He despises this assignment, but spends the first half of his day interviewing an Asian florist (interrupted by Reed) and a Latin tour guide (interrupted by a saucy girlfriend announcing his infidelities on a sandwich board.) Thankfully he gets word of a press conference by Paula & Kara's football client and thinks this could be his exclusive. That's right, Kelvin. A midday press conference and you will be there all by yourself. Things don't go quite as planned there, but he casually falls into favor with Kara at her party and delivers an on-air commentary about the quarterback that would likely have him unemployed by the next morning.
Susan (Kathy Bates)
Kelvin's producer that assigns him to the Valentine's Day piece. This is her entire function in the film. With no romantic possibilities she is a reminder that certain types need not apply for a mate in films like this. As we see with the non-skinny, weird guys with high voices and most minorities.
Sean Jackson (Eric Dane)
A 35 year-old professional quarterback that has just had an amazing season but is unsure if his team is picking up his option. If they are not, he is contemplating retirement. That is until he comes upon the mystical Alphonso who inspires him to call an impromptu press conference. To announce he is gay. (AH-HA! No wonder he expressed no interest in those girls stretching on the beach outside his balcony.) Mike Piazza once called one to announce he wasn't gay. Ellen DeGeneres did it on her sitcom. Sean does it apparently because living in the closet has cost him "his family", aka the love of his life who is currently in no position to possibly hear this live admition and mea culpa but shows up with a rose in hand at the end of the day anyway.
Felicia (Taylor Swift)
The only connection Felicia has to the story is that she goes to the same high school as Grace and Alex. She is madly in love with hot track star, Willy. She is also a cheerleader. No word if Felicia owns the title of Cheer Captain but she is most definitely not in the bleachers. She wears not short skirts, but short shorts at gym where she performs an amusingly inappropriate cheer for a TV colleague of Kelvin's. Her young love "full of promise, full of hope, ignorant of reality" actually becomes the most realistic thing in the film.
Willy (Taylor Lautner)
The hot track star who is "still hot" after he stumbles over a hurdle and admits to being shy about taking his shirt off in public. (L.A. isn't as overcast as the Northwest woods.) As this is his biggest character trait outside of no personality whatsoever, we can assume this is just a matter of typecasting.
Edgar (Hector Elizondo)
This is Edison's grandfather. When the little guy looks for advice on heartache, Edgar is there to quash his doubts about love and growing old together - always referring to his wife, Estelle, as an ageless beauty. Boy, is this poor bastard in for a rude awakening.
Estelle (Shirley MacLaine)
Edgar's wife may be a beauty in his eyes, but she's a real beaut when it comes to fidelity. Turns out some years back when he was away, Estelle hooked up with his business partner. On the eve of them renewing their vows, she feels enough guilt to finally confess. After he goes off for a tortuous night of watching one of her old movies with a crowd (precisely who else would plan a Valentine's evening of going to a cemetery to watch 1958's Hot Spell?) she shows up decked out in blazing red and looking crazy. Not only does she get Edgar to forgive her, but inspires Jason that maybe having a hot phone sex girlfriend isn't so bad after all.
Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts)
She is on a weekend pass, presumably from Iraq, and spends her time on a 14-hour flight getting to know Holden, her seat neighbor that she fell asleep on. She uses her Sherlock Holmes deduction skills (part of our tax dollars at work?) to read Holden's body language and point out that the stewardess is making goo-goo eyes at him. Kate wears a sad face for most of the flight, only to have some fun with Holden while withholding the identity of her special someone back home, whom she will get to briefly see before hopping a plane back.
Holden (Bradley Cooper)
What we know about Holden comes mostly from Captain Kate's intuition, such as why he passes a heart-shaped lollipop over to her. Where is this plane coming from? What does Holden do? Why is a limo waiting for him at the airport? Is he heartbroken enough to jump into the arms of Captain Kate or Stewardess Erin Matthews? In maybe the one genuine gesture in the film, Holden gives up that limo to Kate so she can go see that lucky someone and he can do his best impersonation of TV's The Bachelor as the mystery boyfriend of one of the characters. Oh, who could it be? Surprise, fly-over states! Your Valentine's Day just got a little less red.
And anyone who had to suffer through this film got a little more blue.