- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

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"You´re a psychotic, aren´t you?" an astute observer asks of Romulus Ledbetter (Samuel L. Jackson), the preposterous protagonist of the dud murder mystery "The Caveman´s Valentine." You bet he is.

This movie joins that bewildering parade of winter zombies dominated by "Hannibal." They create the overwhelming impression that Hollywood is catering only to a public of receptive psychos and morons.

Romulus, the sorriest excuse for an updated Sherlock Holmes since Bill Pullman´s character in "The Zero Effect," evidently originated in a mystery novel by George Dawes Green.

For all I know, the author is being cruelly mocked in this adaptation, which seems to lack a credited screenwriter but reunites Mr. Jackson with the actress-turned-director Kasi Lemmons, who made her directing debut on the overrated but fitfully intriguing "Eve´s Bayou."

Together again, star and director blunder into a king-size lemon. Mr. Jackson seems to have been on a sustained weird streak since his trick role in "Deep Blue Sea." It was reasonable to think of his grotesque diabolical role in "Unbreakable" as one pathetic brainstorm too many.

Defying all odds, Romulus may trump it. If Mr. Jackson was determined to have a "Battlefield Earth" to call his own, "The Caveman´s Valentine" definitely gets the ridiculous job done.

Romulus panhandles on the streets of New York City, where a young tycoon played by Anthony Michael Hall takes a genial interest in his shabby hauteur. Romulus dwells in a cave in Central Park. Much of his day must be consumed in arranging the longest, wackiest unkempt dreadlocks in movie history.

They´re destined to get even funnier when draped across the bare torso of Ann Magnuson during blithe and nutty love scenes.

One morning, the corpse of a young man turns up in a tree near Romulus´ cave. Since the unexpected tends to thrive in the vicinity of Romulus, he also has a daughter named Lulu (Aunjanue Ellis) employed as a police officer.

Nevertheless, derelict dad is such a lulu that he decides to crack the case single-handedly. This beau geste demands prodigious, undocumented legwork, because suspicion points at only one character: a sinister modern artist named David Leppenraub (Colm Feore).

The name seems contrived to echo Robert Mapplethorpe; the suspect´s tastes run to bondage and vagabond young men.

Presumably tramping miles between Central Park and Leppenraub´s Long Island lair for days on end, the tenacious Romulus is credited with solving a case that proves shamelessly bogus.

Creepy attributes adhere to Mr. Feore and rival suspects are kept out of sight, but the solution depends on a whitewash of the prime and exclusive suspect.

Talk about brilliant. On the deliberately mirthful side, Romulus gets to make a prompt amorous conquest of Leppenraub´s bohemian, live-in sister, Moira (Miss Magnuson). Their whirlwind affair is a strong argument for transforming "Valentine" into a farcical trifle at the earliest possible opportunity.



TITLE: "The Caveman´s Valentine"

RATING: R (Frequent profanity, graphic violence and conceptual squalor; occasional sexual candor, including brief nudity and simulated intercourse)

CREDITS: Directed by Kasi Lemmons

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

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