Friday September 10, 1999
Look, I'm as tired as you are of lame wish-fulfillment fairy tales being passed off as romantic comedies. I could use a stiff chaser of pure, uncut ribaldry as an antidote to the sappy "Runaway Brides" and "Sleepless in Seattles." And, just maybe, a movie with a title like "Love Stinks" could be expected to provide that bracing shot.
It's a shot all right. Straight through the groin and out the other end. Low comedy doesn't get any lower than "Love Stinks." And if you're willing to pay for the privilege of laughing at cats tortured for no good reason and beautiful women dehumanized into grotesque demons, then dig in. Just don't expect the rest of us to join you.
Writer-director Jeff Franklin, the culprit behind this crime against American comedy, is a veteran of such "family hour" sitcoms as "Full House" and "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper." He's taken his penchant for dumb, obvious jokes and cheesy, equally obvious complications to the big screen in telling this story of a successful TV producer named Seth (French Stewart) who falls for a blond, beautiful interior decorator named Chelsea (Bridgette Wilson).
Seth's skittishness toward commitment crashes violently against Chelsea's near-pathological urge to get married. She is goaded in her single-minded run to the altar by her friend Holly (how is it possible for Tyra Banks to look as unappealing as she does in this movie?), whose husband Larry ("MTV Jams" host Bill Bellamy) is Seth's writing partner. "When all else fails," Holly tells Chelsea, "don't underestimate the power of tears."
Tears, threats, ultimatums, deception--nothing Chelsea tries can get Seth to commit. So she takes legal action and sues for palimony. Told by his attorney that there's little he can do to avoid paying big money in this process, Seth says, "I could kill her and get away with it. This is L.A.!"
As anyone who's watched "3rd Rock From the Sun" will tell you, Stewart is a funny guy. His Harry Solomon is one of the great geek archetypes of network TV. But he's wasted here--to say the least--as a romantic lead. That is, if you can call someone who breaks wind in bed to annoy his would-be fiancee a "romantic" anything. "You are so unfunny!" Chelsea screams at Seth in one of the few moments of insight the movie permits her.
Any redeeming qualities? Yeah. The part where Seth and Chelsea dance along with an Elvis Presley/Ann-Margret clip from "Viva Las Vegas"--Chelsea dressed like Elvis, Seth like Ann-Margret. Interesting, even vaguely kinky. But there's no follow-through. If you're going for bad taste, the least you can do is have the courage of your low-flying convictions.
Love Stinks, 1999. R for language and sexual content. Independent Artists presents a Baumgarten/Prophet Entertainment production. Written and directed by Jeff Franklin. Producers Adam J. Merims, Todd Hoffman. Executive producers Craig Baumgarten, Jeff Franklin. Cinematographer Uta Briesewitz. Editor Richard Candib. Costume designer Ileane C. Meltzer. Music Bennett Salvay. Production designer Pamela A. Marcotte. Set decorator Greta Grigorian. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. French Stewart as Seth. Bridgette Wilson as Chelsea. Tyra Banks as Holly. Bill Bellamy as Larry.