July 3, 2022

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Valentine’s Day movie guide: The good, the bad and the ‘cringey’

8 min read

It’s officially 10 months until Christmas, Michael Bolton — self-proclaimed “undisputed king of Valentine’s Day” — reminded us in a 2017 Netflix special. So in keeping with Seattle Times tradition, we’re extending our holiday movie capsule reviews to Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, there’s lack of diversity in films specifically about Valentine’s Day, which primarily featured white leads and straight couples. Here are seven potential offerings to choose from — whether you’re snuggling in a love seat with your significant other, Telepartying a long-distance lover or celebrating alone with discounted post-Valentine’s Day chocolates. Sorted by when to watch and a ratings scale of zero to five candy hearts (except we’re extremely generous and incapable of not giving out candy to everyone).

“Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special” (2017)

Where to watch: Netflix

Plot: Santa recruits singer Michael Bolton (played by actual Michael Bolton) to save Christmas by hosting a Valentine’s Day “sexathon” to encourage the conception of 75,000 Christmas babies to solve the surplus of toys.

Two-sentence review: I avoided this special before this assignment because I’m not a Michael Bolton superfan and I don’t usually seek out “Valentine’s Day” movies, but this special is amazing and I regret not watching it sooner. Bolton is extremely earnest in this silly, funny, weird and not-suitable-for-children movie.

Notable moment: There are so many moments and comedy cameos, from Andy Samberg impersonating Kenny G in a sexually suggestive saxophone battle while actual Kenny G, as a janitor, watches to Will Forte singing off-key as Bolton’s twin, Michael Folton. I particularly enjoyed watching Maya Rudolph sing “key change” in different octaves and key changes into different cameras. 

Fun fact: Bolton starred as Jack Sparrow in a three-minute 2011 short from The Lonely Island — the comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone — cementing their collaborative relationship before this 54-minute spinoff.

Watch if: You’re a big fan of “Saturday Night Live,” The Lonely Island, Red Nose Day telethons, or the music of Kenny G and Michael Bolton. 

Rating: 5

“Valentine’s Day” (2010)

Where to watch: HBO Max

Plot: On a February day in Los Angeles, “Valentine’s Day” weaves together about a dozen love stories featuring a star-studded cast, including Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and Topher Grace.

Two-sentence review: This is basically the “Love Actually” (2003) formula applied to Valentine’s Day. Despite the overstuffed cast and story lines, I didn’t hate it.

Notable moment: Edison (Bryce Robinson), our adorable pint-size Romeo, shows up at Reed’s (Ashton Kutcher) flower shop with $15, which was probably his life’s savings at this point, and asks for a card and a dozen red roses, priced at $55, to be delivered to a girl he likes at his school for Valentine’s Day. Can you imagine doing that as a kid? And with such confidence? “What’s up with the cutest kid in the world coming in here? And he shorted me,” says Reed.     

Fun fact: There are a lot of Taylor Swift Easter eggs and it’s essential viewing for anyone on their way into Taylor Swift fandom. Her favorite lucky No. 13 makes an appearance on the back of a jersey. At one point, her character tells a TV reporter that she’s not a cheerleader, referencing a lyric from her 2008 hit “You Belong With Me.” At the time of filming, she was dating her on-screen boyfriend Taylor Lautner and even gave him a shoutout on “Saturday Night Live” in 2009. The movie ends with “Today Was A Fairytale,” a song she wrote specifically for the movie, which was later rereleased on her album “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” in 2021.

Watch if: You love “Love Actually” and Taylor Swift.

Rating: 4.5 (Mostly because this is classic Taylor Swift lore.)

“My Perfect Romance” (2018)

Where to watch: Netflix

Plot: Vivian Blair (Kimberly-Sue Murray) is a data scientist who pitches and engineers a dating service only to find that in order to promote it for her company’s Valentine’s Day launch, she and her boss, CEO Wes Robinson (Christopher Russell) of Robinson Technologies, must test it out separately with a series of cringey dates broadcast on local television. 

Two-sentence review: The extremely distracting and obnoxious hold-music-esque soundtrack and sound effects made it feel like I was watching a sitcom; however, the sound mixing was still more interesting than the predictable plot, acting, script or anything else in the film. I’d rather just listen to the film’s soundtrack, which sounds like paint drying, than endure the rest of the film.

Notable moment: I wish there was one.

Fun fact: This made-for-television movie was based on the Harlequin romance novel “Fortune’s Perfect Valentine” by Stella Bagwell.

Watch if: You’re writing or baking or just need bland background noise so your apartment isn’t so silent.

Rating: 1 (Because we’re required to give a Valentine’s Day card to everyone in class.) 

“Holidate” (2020)

Where to watch: Netflix

Plot: Single Scrooges Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) meet in the returns line on Boxing Day at the mall after a terrible Christmas. To avoid further awkward family gatherings, they promise to become each other’s platonic “holidates” for the rest of the year or until they find a serious relationship.

Two-sentence review: OK, so this is a Christmas movie and we’ve already reviewed it in our 2020 Netflix Christmas movie roundup, but this is included here because it comes up if you search “Valentine’s Day movies” on Netflix. I have a soft spot for Kristen Chenoweth and Emma Roberts after years of “Glee” and “American Horror Story,” which made this predictable, cliché movie more watchable.   

Notable moment: On Valentine’s Day, Roberts’ character runs into her ex and his much younger new girlfriend at a chocolate store and Jackson just happens to be there to pretend to be her boyfriend and save the day. This scene should give you a good sense of the type of cliché scenes you can expect.

Fun fact: While Ryan Gosling is repeatedly mentioned in the film, he does not make a cameo. Meet the film’s Gosling look-alike Chad Zigmund, who can be seen shopping in the frozen-foods section in a grocery store behind Sloane as she screams, “Ryan Gosling would never do his own shopping!”

Watch if: You had a choice between this or “My Perfect Romance.”

Rating: 2.5 (Reminder: I just suffered through “My Perfect Romance.”) 

“My Bloody Valentine 3D” (2009)

Where to watch: HBO Max

Plot: A year after a mining accident where Harry Warden killed fellow trapped miners in order to conserve oxygen, Warden wakes up from a coma on Valentine’s Day and leaves a trail of blood at the hospital, including a bloody human heart in a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. Returning to the mine, he kills teenagers at a Valentine’s Day party. Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) and three of his friends miraculously survive the massacre; however, 10 years later on Valentine’s Day — long after Warden’s death, a copycat killer and a string of murders reunite the four former friends.

Two-sentence review: I watched this alone from an old tiny laptop screen in 2D in a well-lit room, but I could almost fantasize about pre-pandemic times when I might have ordered a tub of buttery popcorn and a box of Sour Patch Kids and buried my head in someone’s arm during the jump scares and scenes when a pickax went through someone’s 3D skull inside a dark movie theater. The fact that this bad 1981 remake still felt dated (think “Jaws,” “Twin Peaks,” or “Stranger Things”) helps transport you back in time. (Side note: This was a welcome palette cleanser from the back-to-back rom-coms.)

Notable moment: This is a very violent and gory R-rated film and there are unnecessary scenes including an especially uncomfortable and drawn-out death sequence beginning with a nude woman chasing a man out of a motel room after he filmed their sexual encounter.

Fun fact: The notable moment was actually written with a lot less nudity. The script called for her to be covered with a bedsheet, but actress Betsy Rue has talked about the nude scene in interviews, admitting that it was her idea and that it felt more natural.

Watch if: You love ’80s horror movies and slasher flicks.

Rating: 2.5

“Valentine’s Again” (2017)

Where to watch: Apple TV+

Plot: After her Valentine’s Day date abandons her with the check during dinner, advertising executive Kat (Nicky Whelan) meets Marta (Marina Sirtis), a witch who helps Kat relive Valentine’s Day over and over again until she connects with the man in her life who meets her needs.

Two-sentence review: You’ll feel like you’ve already seen this movie before. Bright and well-lit, a freeze frame of any scene of this made-for-TV cookie-cutter “Groundhog Day-esque” movie could be used as a corporate stock photo. (Side note: To make a viewing more fun, this would be a good movie to fill in a blank bingo card in advance with your personal plot predictions. Here’s a free space to get started: This movie features a florist).

Notable moment: Here’s a slight plot hole: This film paints Bradley, Kat’s perfect man on paper, to be evil because he’s allergic to dogs. He’s supposedly so allergic, in fact, that he sneezes the first time he sees a smartphone photo of Kat’s adorable Australian shepherd, Zack. If he’s so allergic, wouldn’t he be sneezing throughout the date with Kat? Also, how does Kat get around without being covered in dog fur all the time? I’m asking for a friend who has a shepherd mix.

Fun fact: This film has an alternate title and is called “Once Upon A Winter’s Date” on Apple TV+.

Watch if: You like dogs and need a predictable film with a happy ending.

Rating: 3 (I gave it a higher rating than it deserved because it features some very cute dogs.)

“Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown” (1975)

Where to watch: Apple TV+

Plot: It’s Valentine’s Day and Charlie Brown is hoping to receive a briefcase full of Valentine’s Day cards. Lucy wants Schroeder to ask her out. Linus wants his teacher to notice him. And Sally wants Linus to give her a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates.

Two-sentence review: Does anyone remember how depressing this 25-minute animated TV short is? It’s full of heartbreak and unrequited love.

Notable moment: In perhaps the cutest moment of the short, Snoopy and Woodstock chomp on Valentine’s Day chocolates Linus throws away.

Fun fact: After this originally aired in 1975, children reportedly sent Valentine’s Day cards to Charlie Brown.

Watch if: You are under 18, have kids or are feeling nostalgic.

Rating: 4.5

Welcome to one of the most love-filled days of the year! Whether you’re riding solo or spending the day with loved one(s), here’s our guide to Valentine’s Day in the Seattle area: romantic and sweet-filled walks, date ideas, reader memories and more.

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