The Wrong Valentine (2021)

If you’ve spent any amount of time amid the digitized realms of B&S About Movies, you know us good sons of the “City of Bridges” Spider Man-swing off the steel girders over The Three Rivers for the VHS ’80s resumes of Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau — so much so that we make it a point to follow the newest phases of their long careers in providing “damsel in distress” flicks and holiday-centric romance films for Hallmark and Lifetime. If I must be “chick flicked” into watching a Christmas movie, the cottage industry of made-for-streaming and small network Christmas movies flowing down the Ray-DeCoteau confluence is my cup o’ muddy Allegheny River water.

In the case of the divine Mr. DeCoteau: our fandom stretches back to his ’80s home video and USA Network-ran favorites Dreamanic, Creepozoids, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. So yes, while his resume in the romance, holiday, and damsel-thriller genres is ever-expanding, we do our best to watch and review ’em — as we have with The Wrong Cheerleader (to date: he’s done 25 “Wrong” movies), as well as A Christmas Cruise and A Husband for Christmas (we run down David’s and Fred’s ever-growing X-Mas resumes in our review of Olen Ray’s A Christmas Cruise).

Okay, so how did we end up, here . . . beyond having David DeCoteau behind the lens? Why are we reviewing a Valentine’s Day-centric flick released this past February on Lifetime — just after Halloween on the cusp of Thanksgiving? Well, Sasha Anne, the star of the upcoming Reed’s Point, reached out to B&S About Movies about her new film — and we noticed that Evan Adams, her co-star, stars here — with Vivica A. Fox. Yeah, it’s those “Six Degrees of David DeCoteau” that we live for in our cramped cubicle farm along the Allegheny shores.

Yeah, as you look over David DeCoteau’s “Wrong” franchise, you’ll notice a second common denominator in the franchise: Vivica A. Fox — yes, Vernita Green from Kill Bill: Volume 1* and Jasmine Dubrow from Independence Day — is the franchise producer, as well as starring in 22 of the films. About her work in the made-for-TV series franchise, she told Jennifer Moos in The Wrap:

I get to cast myself in characters that normally Hollywood wouldn’t even give me an opportunity to play. I’ve played a detective, a principal, a mom. The only thing David DeCoteau, the director, won’t let me play is the villain, because I’ve always got to deliver that catchy phrase: ‘Well it looks like you’ve got the wrong cheerleader’ or ‘You’ve got the wrong Valentine’ or ‘You’ve got the wrong Mr. Right.’ And people are like, ‘I can’t wait for her to deliver the line.’ . . . I’m doing good producing and starring . . . we film them in 10 days, so that’s why we are able to do so many.”

Vivica, if you’re reading this: no offense intend. You’re wonderful, and we know you’re “bringing the guys to Lifetime,” and this is stone cold truth. However, the B&S staff are movie dorks and we’re coming for the David DeCoteau fix. And that’s (our) squishy-body soft-as-veal truth.

Yes. We have this box set. Why? David made ’em!

Okay, let’s unpack this gushy “chick flick,” shall we?

Also starring Mariah Robinson and Michael Bergin (J.D Davis from TV’s Baywatch and a few of DD’s Lifetime X-Mas and “Wrong” flicks; he’s a college admissions professor, here), this dark holiday offering tells the story of an about-to-graduate high school senior, Emily (Robinson) who, after grieving over the death of her father, decides to love again . . . and the fact that her birthday falls on Valentine’s Day isn’t helping. A bright student under the wing of her History Club teacher, Ms. Connelly (Fox), she find the courage to date David (Evan Adams), the “new boy” in school and member of the scholastic club. Oh, you know it: David is the heartthrob from hell. His screws aren’t just loose: they’re missing. And it’s not just that he’s nuts: there is an ends to his sociopathic means. As with any socio-Lothario: Emily can’t date anyone else, but David can date whomever he wants . . . including Emily’s best friend, Michelle (Jacqi Vene, effective in what is sure to be her first of many Lifetime romps).

As is the Lifetime model: The houses these kids live in — complete with single moms (we delve into that narrative milieu with our recent “Slasher Month” review of Seduced by a Killer) — are amazing, like British royalty-rock star-A List actor amazing. The school campus (not rivaling the use of Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington, in 10 Things I Hate About You, but still. . .) is amazing. (You should have seen the dump I spent the four “best years” of my “real” lifetime. The college campus wasn’t much glamour-better.)

Yeah, sure, the people are perpetually perfect and physical stunning (even the guys), the locations and homes are over-the-top glamorous. So, yes, one could dump on the not-so-reality production of The Wrong Valentine. As Vivica told The Wrap: these films are shot in ten days. Sure, DeCoteau is stock-raiding his other Lifetime efforts for various (familiar?) establishing shots. Sure, maybe scripts, with slight tweaks, are equally-familiar recycled. Well, you know what: so were Roger Corman’s, as were DeCoteau’s old Full Moon boss, Charles Band’s films. It’s the same ’60s drive-in to ’80s VHS/cable business model: shoot ’em quick and shoot ’em cheap. It’s said that Roger Corman “never lost a dime on a movie” (well, outside of the Warren Oates-starring Cockfighter; that’s another review for another time). The only change is the distribution model of lower-tier cable channels (Lifetime is the “new” USA Network** in these ‘ere parts, padre) and streaming platforms.

To this “wrong” installment’s credit: there’s a decent twist-ending you don’t see coming. Yeah, you may have seen it before, in other films of yore, sure: but you don’t see it coming, here, not this time. Yeah, you’ll also hear Vivica’s iconic one liner: “It looks like you had the wrong ________.” that makes us jump with “You go girl” glee.

Another recent Lifetime “slasher” we’ve reviewed: Dating to Kill, aka Seduced by a Killer.

Sure, I’m partial to David DeCoteau’s oeuvre and that may be disrupting my critical radar, but I enjoyed this Lifetime entry. It’s well-shot and DeCoteau pulls the best from his actors. The acting debut of Evan Adams (who could pass for Young Sheldon actor Montana Jordan, aka Georgie, who passes for a young Patrick Swayze) is thespian solid. He goes from sweet and warm to creepy-cold on a dime. And when he goes dark, he keeps it in his pocket: nothing is frantic over-the-top, as is the case with most obsessive-hubby films — especially those major studio features where those A-List actors are going for the Oscar gold. I see a bright future for Adams, as he certainly kept me engaged . . . like those days of seeing Matt Dillon for the first time in Over the Edge (1979). An actor is, of course, only as good as their script. Screenwriter Robert Dean Klein (Dark Ride), whose work we recently reviewed as part of our “Salem Horror Fest October 2021” week of reviews with the film 6:45 — and in his eighth-overall “Wrong” entry — provides Adams a well-arced character of depth . . . that eventually comes to elicit sympathy.

A great job by all concerned.

* We do a deep dive into Quentin Tarantino’s career. Our “Exploring: The Eight Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures” will get you started.

** We ooze our nostalgia wax over the pre-Law & Order marathon-shilling USA Network of the ’80s with our “Drive-In Friday: USA’s Night Flight . . . Night!” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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