Endless Love (★★)

endless_loveWhy did anyone feel the need to go and remake Endless Love? It’s certainly not because the original is a particularly good movie, and it’s not like it’s a well known title on its own (aside from the song, which actually was nominated for an Oscar), so what gives? This 80’s movie has been updated into a much more innocent and bland 2014 release, and I don’t understand the point. It’s almost shamelessly trying to be a Nicholas Sparks knockoff. For those of you who thought that Labor Day veered close to that line, wait until you get a load of this. Jason Reitman‘s movie at least had the extra polish of terrific visuals and top notch performances. Here, co-writer/director Shana Feste adds nothing to the film besides keeping things moving along. Sure, it looks nice enough, but the performances are stiff, the writing is laughable at times, and the story keeps refusing to take any chances. This is meant as a Valentine’s Day release, I know, and at times you can grade that sort of thing on a bit of a curve, but in the past romantic flicks around this holiday have had a bit more to offer. This has very little to offer, and doesn’t even become overtly terrible, so there’s little in the way of comedic value either. This is just a bland and mediocre romantic melodrama.

We’re introduced to our characters on the last day of high school. Working class guy David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) has been in love with wealthy Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) from afar all throughout school, but he never once worked up the nerve to talk to her. His first opportunity comes when her and her family stop by the country club where he works as a valet with his pal Mace (Dayo Okeniyi). She invites him to a graduation party she’s throwing ,though not before they all “borrow” a car from a rude guest and take a joy ride, giving Jade’s father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) his first bad impression of David. When David is the only classmate to come to Jade’s party and helps to invite others, Jade’s mother Anne (Joely Richardson) and brother Keith (Rhys Wakefield) see how they’re falling for each other. Hugh remains unimpressed and sets out to keep them apart. Of course, that only brings them closer together, leading Hugh to take more drastic measures as the summer continues. It’s as cliched as it gets, though until the third act becomes ridiculous, things actually aren’t that bad.

Endless-LoveAs long as all you require from your main cast members is the ability to make you swoon, you won’t be bothered by the acting here. If you’ve got higher standards though…eek. Alex Pettyfer showed some potential in Magic Mike, but he’s ridiculously bland and stiff here. His character is supposed to be charismatic and with an underlying temper, but it all just feels randomly brought out, and that’s due to his inability to show you it below the surface. Gabriella Wilde does a bit better, and is certainly very pretty, but she didn’t show me much in the way of talent. Their chemistry together is nonexistent, with musical cues substituting for any real spark. The adults are at least less boring, though Bruce Greenwood is almost a maniacal villain by the end, while Joely Richardson is far too understanding, with the same going for Robert Patrick as David’s father. The other aforementioned cast members like Dayo Okeniyi and Rhys Wakefield are little more than pieces to move the plot forward, while other supporting players like Anna Enger, Emma Rigby, and others have nothing to do. An acting showcase, this is not.

Shana Feste does make the movie look decently nice, but it’s slick in a really artificial way. Likewise, the soundtrack is well done, but it’s too often a substitute for actual instances of the characters falling in love. Everything that Feste and co-scribe Joshua Safran do is done in shorthand (and don’t even get me started on the various subplots that basically go nowhere), almost as if they could care less about this story. The end result of that is that we care less. Especially when they try and focus less on the love story and more on David’s criminal history (the original movie at least went there…this one pulls its punches at every turn possible), things are rather pointless. I freely admit that I’m a sap and usually either love romantic melodramas (The Time Traveler’s Wife, for example) more than I should or am horrified by how bad they can be (cough, The Vow, cough). Here, I was left shrugging my shoulders, and that’s hard to do.

Endless Love could have been worse, so I suppose that there’s that, but it actually could have been better. Had someone with a genuine interest in telling this story been involved, along with a better cast, at least in terms of the leads, something might have been achieved. Here though, it’s just warmed over mediocrity that will get some teenagers to the theater opening weekend and then fade from existence. To use a pun, Endless Love will not inspire any endless love among its audience…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!