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07/10/2009

A little bit of 'Hate' goes a long way

"I Hate Valentine's Day" is written and directed by Nia Vardalos, the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star. 
 
Vardalos is also out front with an annoying Miss Congeniality forced grin pasted on her face throughout.

Vardalos, in the director's chair for the first time, brings back John Corbett, her "Greek Wedding" co-star.  Let's be kind and just say that "Valentine's Day" doesn't repeat the creative and financial success vows of "Wedding" in 2002.

This new so-called romantic-comedy wouldn't upset the psyche quite so much if it didn't arrive on the heels of Vardalos' previous inept comedy, "My Life in Ruins" (June 5).

In "I Hate Valentine's Day," Vardalos sets herself up as overly cheerful Brooklyn flower shop owner Genevieve Gernier.  Genevieve chirps on and on about how much she loves the corporate-manufactured holiday to her openly gay (and over-stated) co-workers played by Stephen Guarino and Amir Arison. 

A bevy of neighbors and friends come to Genevieve for dating advice, despite the fact that she's a single woman of semi-substantial age.

She has a strict rule about dating.  Five dates are fine.  But anything beyond that just leads to heartache.  So she always breaks it off after five dates.

Genevieve's dating disciples include Tammy (Zoe Kazan of "Revolutionary Road") and Kathy, portrayed by former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Rachel Dratch.  Dratch had the misfortune to also appear in "My Life in Ruins."  If you knew that, you have my condolences.

That's all filler, really.  "Valentine's Day" is all about the "Take Two" on-screen relationship between Vardalos and Corbett.  Greg (Corbett), unlucky in love lately, opens up a tapas restaurant down the street and, of course, wanders into the flower shop.

The only thing even remotely funny here is the running joke about the name of Greg's restaurant (Get on Tapas) and the fact that no one gets the play on words.

Sadly, there is no repeat strike of the much-hoped-for lightning in a bottle for Corbett and Vardalos. 
 
Corbett, whose big-screen career has sputtered lately, appears to be fighting the duality of being glad to have an acting gig, but knowing the creative drivel he's involved in.

Vardalos makes no significant creative impact as a first-time director.  Frankly, some of her choices both as a filmmaker and leading lady boggle the mind.  Perhaps to offset the notion that she's coming across as Lucille Ball lite, Vardalos sexes up her performance. 
 
A scene where her skirt lifts to reveal her undergarments in front of Corbett's restaurant window is embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch.  And it seems to last a tick or two beyond forever.

I'm OK with Valentine's Day, but I'm beginning to grimace with the mere mention of another Nia Vardalos movie.

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