Introducing her new romantic comedy at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, writer/director/star Nia Vardalos warned attending critics who had "come here to dump all over it" to "put a cork in it." Alas! Corks must pop for a glorified sitcom as transcendently inept and self-regarding as I Hate Valentine's Day. Slim, trim, and far too old to be simpering like a demented kitten, Vardalos affects a bizarrely self-conscious runway lope through this naked attempt to repeat the box-office moxie of her big, fat Greek wedding. Trading Toula for Genevieve, Vardalos is now an apparently fancy-free Manhattan florist who sets a five-date limit on all potential relationships until she meets a shy restaurateur (John Corbett, again) with permanence written all over his handsome mug. Flanked by the usual gay stooges (Stephen Guarino and Amir Arison) gamely cracking wise and an ensemble of sidekicks (among them Rachel Dratch, Jay O. Sanders, and Gary Wilmes) more gifted than she, Vardalos stalks from one dreary set piece to the next (pretentious art shows, dire karaokethat sort of thing), wearing an expression of petrified vivacity occasionally softened by, here it comes, the childhood wounds that have rendered Genevieve so scared of commitment. Vardalos calls her film "the ultimate indie experiment," and if that's what is meant by ham-fisted pacing, writing, and acting, this is as ultimate and as indie as it gets.
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