D: Jeff Franklin; with French Stewart, Bridgette Wilson, Bill Bellamy, Tyra Banks, Jason Bateman, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen.
(R, 92 min.)
An "unromantic comedy" of deep marital paranoia, Love Stinks may spell relief for men whose bowels shake at the sight of baby booties, wedding rings, and SUVs. For the rest of us, it's just another frivolous product of whiny male anxiety that's as funny as a sitcom but longer and more expensive. The story follows Seth Winnick (3rd Rock From the Sun's Stewart), a successful television producer who falls for the radiant Chelsea (Wilson) after he spies her at a wedding. At first, it's all wine and roses and headboard-banging sex, but you know how it goes: She wants to move in, get married, have babies, and before you can say, "check, please," she's turned into a screeching, six-headed harpy (albeit one with a nice rack). Poor, baffled Seth. What to do? Taking a cue from his best friend (Bellamy) and the philandering star of his sitcom (Bateman), our hapless hero finally dumps the beeatch, but it's too late. The scorned Chelsea files a frivolous lawsuit, and when Seth retaliates, it kicks off a devastating game of one-upmanship in which he loses his house, his friends, and even his hair. Stewart is a cartoonish actor, who is to rubberfaced grimace as Hugh Grant is to blustering stammer, and it's difficult to buy him as a romantic lead. His spastic visage is so prone to pucker and furrow that it almost looks involuntary, as if he's passing something internally. Not until the film's second half, when "constipated" actually seems an appropriate reaction, do Stewart's manic charms fit the role. As the hysterical girlfriend, Wilson (Billy Madison) kneads charm into an unforgiving role, and her comic touch generates some genuine sparks. Indeed, by the end, you might be surprised to find yourself chuckling at the pair's ridiculous antics. Yes, Love Stinks is often funny -- just not that funny. The film's gender humor would probably kill at a Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus conference. And male teens (especially those Adam Sandler junkies) will revel in the juvenile humor, Stewart's boyish wheedling, and the ample cleavage of the film's many buxom blondes. Other than that, it's difficult to know exactly who would be impressed by this kind of half-assed, toothless comedy. "I'm never getting married," one gleeful, satisfied customer said upon exiting the theatre. Now I can't speak for all the ladies, but honey, that's all right with me.
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