- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

"Valentine" leaves infinite room for improvement if you fancy yourself a future filmmaker and think it might prove both instructive and lucrative to cook up a murder thriller with a Valentines Day angle.
To judge from "Valentine" itself, no one in Hollywood is likely to hold you to lofty standards of ingenuity or credibility. Most moviegoers probably flatter themselves that they could write a smarter script while bound and gagged. It would be quite a humiliation to settle for anything dumber.
Attributed to two teams of clueless screenwriting contrivers, "Valentine" traces its wave of homicides to adolescent snobbery. Five young women whose friendships date back to junior high spurned the same shy and lovelorn classmate, Jeremy Melton, at a fateful prom. One of them even accused him, falsely, of unwanted familiarities, resulting in a reformatory sentence for the hapless geek.
Thirteen years later an elusive Jeremy, or someone who finds it maliciously convenient to evoke his suffering memory, appears intent on exacting revenge. Ominous valentines anticipate murder attempts on members of the quintet. These poison-pen couplets suggest that reformatory did little to sharpen Jeremys word power: "The journey of love is an arduous trek; my love grows for you as you bleed from the neck" is Threat No. 1, followed by the arguably lamer "Roses are red, violets are blue, theyll need dental records to I.D. you."
After that he just gets gross, sending chocolate-covered maggots in a fancy box.
Bad judgment and pathetic lapses of attention plague "Valentine" from the outset. The first victim is the worst possible choice: Katherine Heigl as a pathologist named Shelley, who seems the most likable of the targets at a glance and ought to entrap the killer in the very setting that proves a deathtrap for her, a basement autopsy room and accompanying chambers, notably a holding room for several corpses in body bags. Miss Heigl should be the keeper in the group, which isnt even large enough to provide the filmmakers with adequate variations and mounting suspense.
They have to range outside the immediate group of Five Little Indians to beef up the body count. Additional victims are recruited from pools of boyfriends or creeps who aspire to be boyfriends, from secondary young women and even from the domestic help in one pointless and laughable instance.
Absentmindedness rivals blood lust as a source of trouble. Its not certain that the body of the second murder victim is ever located. Her surviving friends act pretty nonchalant about her whereabouts. A supplementary victim is scalded and bludgeoned with a hot iron in the apartment of one of the imperiled heroines. She doesnt seem to notice anything upon returning to the grisly abode. But then she has a party date that night and could be preoccupied.
Out of sight, out of mind becomes the moronic master plan of the filmmakers as they stagger toward concluding slaughters and muddled revelations.
Evidently, anyone killed or presumably killed no longer has to be accounted for. The most vicious kiss-offs leave one victim with four arrows in the gut and another with her throat slashed on the glass shards of a shattered shower door. People whove been going to the movies regularly may brush off a fancy electrocution power drill tossed into a hot tub because it resembles the episode that makes Mel Gibson clairvoyant in "What Women Want." By all rights the comparable victim in "Valentine" should exit with the power to read mens minds, not that she needs it.
For some reason the dishy and amusing Denise Richards has been lured into this slipshod hoot, which slightly tarnishes the luster of her contributions to "Starship Troopers," "Wild Things" and "The World Is Not Enough." Which agent thought this would be a desirable showcase?
Jessica Capshaw, daughter of Kate, has a weirdly unnerving way of clenching her teeth and mouth. She might have an entertaining future ahead as seething, scorned and potentially vindictive gals. Even Hannibal Lecter might steer clear of the tension and enmity she seems to project from those choppers.
Still, its funny to think of Anthony Hopkins feeding her such a line as "Penny for your thoughts."

1 and 1/2 out of four stars
TITLE: "Valentine"
RATING: R (Occasional profanity, graphic violence and sexual vulgarity)
CREDITS: Directed by Jamie Blanks. Screenplay by Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts. Cinematography by Rick Bota. Production design by Stephen Geaghan. Music by Don Davis
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

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