By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes "Endless Love" (Universal), a remake of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 romantic drama that’s anything but a holiday bonbon.
Zeffirelli’s tale of doomed lovers, starring Brooke Shields and featuring Tom Cruise in his first movie role, is perhaps best remembered today for its gooey theme song, performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.
The new version, directed and co-written (with Joshua Safran) by Shana Feste ("Country Strong"), is another story altogether. Feste jettisons much of the original source material, the 1979 novel by Scott Spencer. In its place is a predictable tale of star-crossed teens who cast caution — and morality — to the winds one fateful summer, all in the name of "love."
The film’s ominous tagline, "Say goodbye to innocence," should be a red flag for teen viewers as well as their parents.
Two high-school graduates in a leafy Georgia suburb come from different sides of the tracks. Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) is beautiful, privileged, and innocent, sheltered from the world by her over-protective parents, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) and Anne (Joely Richardson).
The family has been touched by tragedy. Years ago, Jade’s older brother died of cancer, and Hugh sees in Jade’s future the fulfillment of his late son’s dreams to be a doctor.
When Jade meets fellow student David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), the attraction is instant and overwhelming. David is poor but well-meaning. Instead of planning for college, he works as an auto mechanic with his divorced father, Harry (Robert Patrick).
David is smitten with Jade, the difference in their backgrounds notwithstanding. Hugh is alarmed at his daughter’s choice, while Harry is delighted.
"Go out and embarrass yourself," he tells his son. "It builds character."
It also brings trouble. Before the first date is over, Jade and David have consummated their relationship, and attraction turns to obsession.
Jade’s latent independence surfaces and she defies her father, canceling a summer internship to while away the days and nights with David and his friends.
One, a troublemaker aptly called Mace (Dayo Okeniyi), offers this piece of (bad) advice: "Let’s be young and dumb."
To elaborate further would entail spoilers, as secrets are revealed and battle lines drawn between parents and children. Suffice it to say that it all makes for a long hot summer — and the police are kept very busy.
Ultimately, "Endless Love" wants to have it both ways. There’s a welcome measure of redemption and a degree of reconciliation. But any ethical code that would prohibit sexual activity outside of marriage is ignored.
The film contains misguided values, semi-graphic nonmarital sexual activity with brief partial nudity, teenage drinking and some rough and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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