“Endless Love” is the most threatening title since “The Neverending Story.” Make no mistake, though: It does end. It ends badly, but it does end.
That is perhaps a bit harsh on a film that can accurately be categorized as ludicrously enjoyable. It is worth noting that the screening audience had a wonderful time, and I often did, as well. But it is not a good movie – just a charmingly daft heart-shaped doughnut with sprinkles on the outside and an empty hole in the center.
It is the second adaptation of Scott Spencer’s well-regarded, hugely successful novel. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 film starring Brooke Shields is remembered mostly for the theme song by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. (This one, incidentally, ups the ante with a soundtrack that includes Tegan and Sara and the National’s Matt Berninger.)
Appropriately, it swoons into theaters on Valentine’s Day, and hits all of the de rigueur teen romance notes.
There is the wealthy wallflower Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde), a lovely, sweet-natured graduating high school senior who still is mourning the death of her beloved brother. She lives under the watchful eye of her overprotective father (Bruce Greenwood) and slightly shaky mother (Joely Richardson).
Only in the movies would a girl as attractive as Wilde, a former Burberry and Lacoste model, be unpopular. And perhaps only in the movies would a hulking, broad-shouldered teddy bear like David (Alex Pettyfer) lack the nerve to talk to her.
Alas, they finally do speak, and romance blossoms. Soon, Jade is considering forgoing a prestigious internship, sneaking David into her family’s gated mansion, and, of course, losing her virginity in sensual soft-focus – in front of a roaring fire, no less. (There is no room for first-timer awkwardness in the world of “Endless Love.”)
The first 45 minutes or so are relatively grounded. Sure, there are several montages in which the happy couple cavorts in laughably advertisement-esque joy – Running through sprinklers! Sharing a bicycle! More sprinklers! – but it’s all rather sweet, and often funny, especially when the scene-stealing Dayo Okeniyi appears as David’s buddy Mace.
But then things get serious. And Greenwood’s dad glowers. And Pettyfer pouts. And Wilde looks sad. And there is an arrest. And an unearthed crime report. And car accidents, and fires, and enough wildly overwrought drama to make even a British soap-opera aficionado beg for mercy.
It is all way, way too much, yet that is part of the fun of a bad movie. The more silly it gets, the more pleasurable it becomes.
Director Shana Feste has a rather absurd filmography, having previously helmed a drippy Carey Mulligan-Pierce Brosnan drama called “The Greatest” and the dippy Gwyneth-goes-country flop “Country Strong.” All three of her films feature strong supporting casts, and “Endless Love” is no exception.
Greenwood does what he can with the one-note, Disapproving Dad role (it is perhaps a sign of my advancing age that I found him the most rational character in the film), while Robert Patrick makes the most of a rare good-guy part.
As for the stars, it would be difficult to conjure up a prettier couple than Pettyfer and Wilde, and they give modest, likable performances. But there is nothing remotely involving about either character, really. They are beautiful, and blonde, and that is all. (Alternate title idea: “Blond on Blonde.”)
For a far, far better teen romance in which the leads are pleasantly offbeat, the story avoids cliché, and the tone avoids pomposity, seek out last year’s Sundance Fest fave “The Spectacular Now.” The couple in “Spectacular,” played by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, have a relationship that feels rounded, and real, and suitably novice.
If you instead desire something unchallenging and silly, “Endless Love” is ready for your Valentine’s dollars. Enjoyable? Yes. Spectacular? No.
Starring: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Shana Feste
Running time: 103 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying.
The Lowdown: Remake of romantic drama about a privileged girl whose parents try to keep her away from her new love.