Valentine Ever After (2016)

It’s not great when you can’t remember a single detail about a movie a mere twenty-four hours after watching it, but that’s how much of an impact Valentine Ever After made on me. In fairness, I have a shit memory, but don’t discount the unspectacular story and the even less thrilling title. Seriously, what does “valentine ever after” even mean? Nothing, if we’re talking about the context of this film, which takes place on a faltering dude ranch in a Wyoming poke hole.

Autumn Reeser plays Julia, a soon-to-be lawyer who is about to enter the family firm. After her rich boyfriend, Gavin (Damon Runyan), pops the question in public, an overwhelmed Julia takes a spontaneous holiday with her rich friend, Sydney (Vanessa Matsui), to regain her bearings. Just hours into their vacation, however, they get in a scuffle that destroys the town’s beloved statue, which has been mounted in the safest, most reverent of all places – the local bar. Forced to do community service to atone for this grievous crime, they come to see a different side of Wyoming.

Julia and Sydney end up at the house of Ben Thomas (Eric Johnson) and his mom (Carolyn Scott), whose place was once on the verge of becoming a tourist spot. But their dreams of transforming their home into a dude ranch and retreat faltered during the recession, and they haven’t been able to recover. The two city slickers lend a hand with ranch work, and after that doesn’t pan out, they help at the hospital. When they learn that the hospital needs a financial boost as well, Julia and Sydney cook up some ideas to fundraise, which is no big deal because these ladies are loaded.

I wish there was something, anything to highlight, but this movie is just not that exciting. I suppose one positive is that it wasn’t so boring that I had to stop watching, and that’s probably thanks to Reeser, who always gives a dedicated performance. It’s that same old trope though – girl gets arrested, falls for a handsome local, and figures out what she really wants in life. Okay, perhaps not the usual start to a romance, and the fish-out-of-water scenario provided a few comic scenes. But it also traded a lot on Sydney making a damn fool of herself and giving city folk a bad name, which we know Hallmark is always game for. A more dynamic co-lead might have kicked this one up a notch, but Johnson is not much of a foil to Reeser. He hits his marks but easily disappears into the background, having hit the “nice but bland” sweet spot.

Released: 2016
Dir: Don McBrearty
Writer: Alana Smithee
Cast: Autumn Reeser, Eric Johnson, Vanessa Matsui, Damon Runyan, Ron Lea, Carolyn Scott, Jeff Clarke
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019

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