Appearing out of the blue in a stack of mail, the correspondence at question in "The Love Letter" is intended to stir things up in the sleepy New England town of Loblolly By the Sea. Instead, it serves to propel a lame plot that should be called "How Mrs. Spielberg Didn't Get Her Groove Back."
Producer and star of the film Kate Capshaw (Mrs. Steven Spielberg) finds a hackneyed letter that extols the sensual qualities of peeling oranges and decides that it has been left for her. She questions everyone in the tiny town that time forgot and deduces that the writer must be Johnny, the young stud (Tom Everett Scott) she hired to work in her bookstore for the summer, or her high-school sweetheart (Tom Selleck), who is in the middle of a divorce.
When she invites Johnny -- who parades through most of the film sans shirt -- over for dinner, he finds the letter and thinks that Helen has written it to him. The misunderstanding moves the frigid, 40-ish Helen to indulge in an un-steamy relationship with the college student.
Ellen DeGeneres plays Helen's best friend, Janet, who works in her bookstore, which seems to have more employees than customers. DeGeneres' comedic talents are far above the abysmal script, and once again prove that her presence deserves better vehicles than what she's been cast in lately.
Scott, who made his powerful starring debut in "That Thing You Do," looks a little long in the tooth as the college stud and also seems a little uncomfortable playing the beefcake role.
Selleck sports an unflattering hairstyle (parted straight down the middle) and wears ugly glasses so that his only appeal on screen -- his looks -- fail him miserably.
But the most pathetic inhabitant in "The Love Letter" is Capshaw. Subtlety is not in her repertoire, and the film's indecisive style (comedy or drama?) throws Capshaw for a loop.
The talents of Blythe Danner, as Helen's mother, and "Titanic's" Gloria Stewart, as Helen's dotty grandmother, are both wasted in these roles.
In "The Love Letter," DreamWorks (can you say Spielberg?) obviously realized they had a piece of junk mail and so posted it in the thick of the "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" season, where it can be thrown out without much notice.