'Endless Love' (PG-13)

A box of Valentine’s Day sweets that’s rather too sugary, Endless Love goes even milder than the campy, nougat-filled 1981 Brooke Shields version. It’s far gooier than Scott Spencer’s edgy novel of teenage obsession, arson and clandestine love.

Spencer recently published an apologetic open letter calling the first film “really bad” and the new rendition “even worse.”

As re-imagined by the producing team of the long-running teen soap operas The O.C. and Gossip Girl, Spencer’s protagonist has been considerably tamed. Originally he was a lovesick pyromaniac who burns down his girlfriend’s house, with the family inside, when he’s told he cannot see her again. The boy is now a true-blue hunkmuffin who will, when provoked beyond all human endurance, bop a deserving jerk on the nose. The stakes, you see, have been dramatically lowered.

Alex Pettyfer plays the blue-collar high-school dreamboat David, a country club parking valet. Jade, played by Gabriella Wilde, is a gorgeous, wealthy, brilliant wallflower who has passed through four years of school without a date. In one of many developments that defy credibility, she is shunned by her classmates like the Queen of the Cooties.

David, long her secret admirer, shows Jade the excitement of living on the edge. He takes her for a joy ride in a club-member’s convertible (gasp) and for a swim (double gasp). Like Krazy Glue, they bond permanently. This rankles Jade’s overbearing father (played with an agreeably pugnacious edge by Bruce Greenwood), who sees David as an impediment to her departure for a pre-med internship. There’s a great deal of Romeo-and-Juliet, adults-just-don’t-understand business, a scene of all-consuming passion in front of a roaring fireplace, and a four-alarm fire that allows David to play the hero and save the day.

Writer / director Shana Feste gives the proceedings the surface shimmer of a shampoo commercial. Pettyfer, who has done good work as a venal male stripper in Magic Mike and a misunderstood extraterrestrial in I Am Number Four, plays his vanilla nice guy role agreeably. He’s a suitable physical match for the long-stemmed Wilde, who expresses youthful high spirits by gamboling and twirling a lot.

Though their romance doesn’t have any real Endless Love crises or passionate abandon, it isn’t a travesty either. It’s sort of pleasant in a forgettable way.

If you’ve reached the stage in your relationship where chocolate-dipped strawberries, roses, a giant stuffed panda and pink champagne are no longer sufficient Valentine’s Day tributes, this might be worth the price of two tickets. Just don’t tell Scott Spencer I said so.

Cast: Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Rhys Wakefield.

Director: Shana Feste.

Screenwriters: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran.

Producers: Pamela Abdy, Stephanie Savage, Josh Schwartz.

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 103 minutes. Vulgar language, brief nudity, sexual situations, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


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