on February 02, 2001 by Annlee Ellingson
   The horror-thriller "Valentine" makes mistakes where its successful predecessors like "Scream" didn't, essentially revealing its antagonist in its casting.

   The pic begins with a too-brief prologue set in 1988, when geeky Jeremy Melton systematically asks every pretty girl at his sixth grade Valentine's Day party to dance with him. After a series of heartless rejections, save one--"Maybe later, Jeremy"--overweight Dorothy says yes, and the outcast pair ends up making out under the bleachers. Discovered by a gang of bullies, Dorothy claims Jeremy attacked her, and he's punished by getting a bowl of punch dumped over his head and stripped in front of his entire class.

   Cut to 13 years later. The girls are all still pretty, popular and successful--and dying one by one at the hands of a vengeful murderer who wears a cupid mask and sends them threatening Valentine's Day cards in advance. Once they figure out that the "J.M." signature on the valentines could be the long-forgotten Jeremy Melton, disguised by plastic surgery, they begin to suspect each other's boyfriends, who each are jerks in their own right.

   Such suspense, however, is negated by the casting of TV's "Angel's" David Boreanaz in his first lead role in a feature film. The only male among the first six actors credited, it's obvious--despite a twist ending that is briefly slightly more interesting--he's the one.

   Yet Boreanaz is not in the film that much, yielding to his female co-stars in peril (Denise Richards is sexy as the girls' ringleader Paige, and Jessica Capshaw conveys the complexity of the once-plump, now-rich-daddy's-girl Dorothy, but the rest of the women blur together), rather than getting the chance to develop the character who in the book by Tom Savage kills his abusive parents and plans his revenge while serving his time in prison. Perhaps this information would have been fleshed out in the sequel, but the filmmakers won't likely get the chance.    Starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel and Katherine Heigl. Directed by Jamie Blanks. Written by Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts. Produced by Dylan Sellers. Horror. A Warner Bros. release. Rated R for strong horror violence, some sexuality and language. Running time: 95 min.

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