Feeling a bit like a recycled Valentine card, “Endless Love” presents a pretty, frilly but frayed contemporary take on the patented Romeo and Juliet saga, with a hot young cast and more than a few cloying clichés to move it along.
Not surprisingly, this bland tale of teenage passion is a by-the-numbers remake of the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli (“Romeo and Juliet”) movie that featured awkward teen beauty Brooke Shields and the largely forgotten Mark Hewitt in an adaptation that was universally panned (except for the syrupy theme song by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross that somehow snagged an Oscar nomination).
Most surprisingly, the story is based on a very good novel by Scott Spencer that earned wide acclaim for its earnest, poignant and ferociously sexual treatment of teenage love.
But, as was the case with Zeffirelli, the material in the hands of writer-director Shana Feste (“Country Strong”) is transformed into soft-focus pap for tweens who might indeed be experiencing the first red-hot pangs of passion but don’t have a clue what it all means. They won’t gain any true insight into those potent emotions from this sanitized, PG-13 affair.
The story focuses on just graduated high-school classmates David Elliot and Jade Butterfield (Brits Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, both 23 and trying to pass for 17). He’s a hunky auto mechanic without any long-range goals; she’s the coyly beautiful apple of her surgeon father’s eye (he’s played by a sour-pussed Bruce Greenwood) and destined to follow his footsteps into medical school.
They’re introduced by a mutual high school friend and quickly spark up romance in which his rugged, blue-collar charm transforms her from pallid wallflower into a bikini-clad, party-hearty hottie.
Naturally, Doc Butterfield is not amused, and he spends the remainder of the movie trying to scuttle their affair and his daughter’s happiness. Meanwhile, the doctor’s wane wife (Joely Richardson) stands by and occasionally comes to Jade’s defense when the romantic chips are down.
Director Feste, who co-wrote the script with Joshua Safran, uses big-note soundtrack cues to underscore the character’s “emotions,” and she seesaws back and forth between idyllic scenes of young lovers at play and killjoy adults throwing wet blankets on their fun.
Anyone past the mid-teens will have seen all of this before (perhaps even in Zeffirelli’s notoriously sappy version), so there’s nothing new in this needless remake except an endless procession of superficial Valentine sentiment that looks pretty but soft-pedals the true, all-consuming, earth-shattering urgency of first love.
- Dennis King
1 ½ stars
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson
(Sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying)