Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde in "Endless Love." :
By Roger Moore / McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Kids, this is not your parents' "Endless Love."
Scott Spencer's novel of a romantic obsession so strong that it flirts with mental illness has had its sharp edges rubbed off, its dramatic weight lifted and its focus shifted in this adaptation from the director of "Country Strong."
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Bruce Greenwood.
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying.
There's nothing dangerous about this teen love on steroids. There's no showcase sex scene, the selling point of the infamous 1981 Brooke Shields/Franco Zeffirelli adaptation. The kids here are perfectly reasonable; the adults are the problem -- but even their efforts to separate the lovebirds are watered down.
Still, even without that tragic Romeo-Juliet edge or the hit theme song by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, it does have a stellar cast who keep things real even if the lighter touches turn this into a far more conventional teen romance.
Alex Pettyfer is David, the car mechanic's son who falls -- hard -- for the gorgeous Jade, played by the supermodel-skinny "Carrie" co-star Gabriella Wilde. So we get it.
They graduate from high school together, never having spoken. But David, he's seen "the possibility of us." And Jade, shut off from her peers, smothered by a family still mourning a brother who died two years before, is simply swept off her feet.
He rescues her ill-planned graduation party, and when he gets off on the wrong foot with her stern surgeon dad (Bruce Greenwood, terrific), mechanic boy David finds an automotive way to make it up to the doctor, fixing up the family's ancient MGB. Jade's mom (Joely Richardson) is touched. Jade's brother (Rhys Wakefield of "The Purge") is charmed.
But the doctor has his daughter's future planned, and those plans start with a summer internship. The boy is interfering.
The way this story is supposed to work is that Dad's threats and efforts to keep the kids apart works on David's fragile lovesick mind and makes him desperate. Mr. Pettyfer doesn't suggest that, as this David is written as all lovesick and moon-eyed. He's harmless.
Jade is in love for the first time, but Ms. Wilde doesn't get across the breathless yearning that raises the stakes of their affair when Daddy tries to split them up.
Director and co-writer Shana Feste concocts what could have been an engaging if stunningly predictable "Endless Love," from the pop music montage courtship sequences to Dad's driving the boy out on a boat to tell him what's not going to happen with his daughter.
Mr. Greenwood and Ms. Richardson make a fine discordant couple and the young leads have a certain chemistry. If only Ms. Feste had realized she'd stripped almost all the conflict out of the story, that you can't flip motivations and make everybody "reasonable" and have anything like an interesting drama left over.
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