Jeff Franklin, the creator of popular television series "Full House" and among those to blame for the lackluster movies "Summer School" and "Just One of the Guys," tempted fate with the cheeky title of his latest big-screen effort. So the writer and director of "Love Stinks" deserves what he's certain to get in print, repeatedly, upon the film's release.
This witless comedy, marked by a dead-end plot, lamebrain dialogue and relentlessly annoying characters, in a better world would have gone straight to video (and in a kinder, gentler universe, the budget would have been spent on any number of worthier projects seeking financing). Yeah, we'll gladly take the bait: Franklin's flick smells bad, real bad. One might even say it stinks.
"Love Stinks" is odorous from the top down, with poor French Stewart (NBC hit "Third Rock From the Sun") miscast in the lead role of television writer Seth Winnick. He's unlucky in love until he meets Chelsea Turner (Bridgette Wilson) through their mutual soon-to-be-married friends Larry Garnett (Bill Bellamy) and Holly Garnett (supermodel Tyra Banks).
Bellamy, the host of "MTV Jams," and occasional actor Banks mostly serve as attractive props, hanging around in the background while the bulk of the film focuses on time spent alone with Seth and Chelsea. It's sort of sweet, if nonsensical, at the start, as the two go on an all-night date that takes them from a private dance at a planetarium to a convenience-store dinner to a game of miniature golf and, finally, a raucous lovemaking session.
And then, without much explanation, the sexy, generous, giving girl of Seth's dreams turns into a woman he eventually refers to as "Lucifer." She worms her way into his life, first coercing him into saying the "L" word, later settling into his house on a moment's notice, unexpectedly showing up to wreak havoc at his office and dropping hints to friends about never-discussed wedding plans.
All hell breaks loose one Valentine's Day, a year or so into their relationship, when Seth presents his beloved with a pair of $10,000 diamond earrings. She wanted a ring. "I am pretty," Chelsea says, after assaulting her boyfriend with profanity. "I am sexy. I am fun. And nobody will ever love you as much as I do." It's not exactly an enlightened portrait of female sexuality.
"Love Stinks" next takes a detour into terrain right out of 1989's infinitely more sophisticated dark comedy "War of the Roses," as the two quarreling lovers utilize lawyers and a variety of dirty tricks in an effort to destroy one another, emotionally if not physically. Some fun. Stewart and Wilson don't make convincing soul mates, nor do they create much in the way of believable interpersonal energy as confirmed enemies.
"Love Stinks" is filled out with an occasionally funny subplot about a sitcom that begins to reflect Seth's personal life, and some brief, winning performances by small-screen types Steve Hytner ("Seinfeld"), Jason Bateman ("Chicago Sons") and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen ("Beverly Hills, 90210"). An Elvis impersonator (Terry Crisp) even shows up at the end, during a sequence at a Las Vegas wedding chapel. But it's much too late. And far too little.