I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009)
Remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The chemistry between the two leads — then-unknown stage actress Nia Vardalos and Sex and the City’s John Corbett as star-crossed Greek-American and Anglo-Saxon lovers, Toula Portokolos and Ian Miller — coupled with a funny, heartfelt story about ethnic identity and an endearing supporting cast, made it not just the surprise indie hit of 2002, but the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.
I Hate Valentine’s Day, which reunites Vardalos and Corbett as onscreen paramours, is not that film. It’s the cracked-out Frankenstein version of that film, as Vardalos’ Genevieve and Corbett’s Greg possess none of the chemistry, not to mention the individual warmth or likability, that made the pairing of Toula and Ian so appealing. Good writing and direction might have saved them, but Vardalos is weak on both counts; as a result, both characters come across as blithering, childish idiots.
Genevieve, who owns a Brooklyn flower shop called Roses for Romance, has a “five-date rule” that she considers breaking after getting to know Greg, who owns a tapas bar called Get on Tapas (woof). The forced humor drags on for what feels like years, while the few scenes featuring Zoe Kazan as Genevieve’s dreamy friend (so good that her character might as well have wandered in from another, much better film) offer only brief glimpses of hope.
The moment of truth for Greg and Genevieve arrives on Valentine’s Day, one year to the day after their story begins. But by that point, the will to care is outstripped by the desire to watch something else, anything else, as a form of brain bleach for the painful second-hand embarrassment of watching two actors stumble through a relationship that even they don’t seem to believe in. —Leah Pickett