Valentine’s Day is here, sending happy couples scurrying to movie theaters to watch cinematic testaments to the power of love.
Three new releases are hoping to capture audiences’ hearts: “Endless Love,” with Alex Pettyfer as a lovestruck teen from the wrong side of the tracks, “Winter’s Tale” a time-traveling romance with Colin Farrell as a love-struck man from the wrong side of history, and “About Last Night,” a new version of a 1986 Rob Lowe film.
The surprise critical winner by a landslide is…”About Last Night,” which is currently enjoying an 72 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviewers hail it as fresh and risky. “Winter’s Tale,” with a 13 percent “rotten” rating, and “Endless Love,” 16 percent “rotten,” are both sugary enough to cause tooth decay, top critics grouse.
TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde agreed with the critical consensus on “Winter’s Tale,” complaining that the final product was hackneyed instead of heart-breaking.
“I suspect ‘Winter’s Tale,’ which defies logic in new and exciting ways as it pushes together lovers played by Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (‘Downton Abbey’), will engender a similar minority of dedicated, swooning admirers,” Duralde wrote. “For the rest of us, piffle this is and piffle it will always be.”
The problem is that “Winter’s Tale” tries to incorporate magical elements, such as a flying horse, into its love story, A.O. Scott of the New York Times laments, making the whole enterprise a ludicrous endeavor.
“A thin line separates the magical from the preposterous, and by insisting so strenuously on its own magic, ‘Winter’s Tale’ pitches helplessly into earnest ridiculousness,” Scott wrote.
The New York Observer’s Rex Reed panned the movie in a one-star review: “Oblique, unstructured and demented, ‘Winter’s Tale‘ aims to cast a dreamlike spell, but it’s more like a nightmare.”
“Endless Love” did not fare much better in critics’ eyes. TheWrap’s Inkoo Kang had trouble buying the relationship between Pettyfer’s blue collar-hunk and Gabriella Wilde’s privileged, Ivy League-bound young woman.
“Despite its purity of feeling, ‘Endless Love’ is both a salvo against personal evolution and a paean to the foolish conviction that love comes first, and growth second,” Kang wrote.
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post was even rougher on the romance, writing that the original 1981 movie with Brooke Shields was bad, but this one is a certified stinker.
“Shana Feste’s endlessly lame ‘Endless Love” remake turns the obsessive sexual heat way down from the infamous 1981 Brooke Shields vehicle — while also tossing out the tragedies of Scott Spencer’s acclaimed source novel (but keeping Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s original theme song),” Lumenick wrote.
One of the sole positive notices came courtesy of Owen Gleiberman. The Entertainment Weekly critic acknowledged that the film was cosmeticized, but he didn’t mind having his love story arrive blemish-free.
“If the movie works at all (and I think it does), it’s as a swoony love story threatened by a basic, cornball Oedipal drama. But for a film that’s coming out on Valentine’s Day, that more than passes as respectable,” Gleiberman wrote.
Fear not, young lovers, because a romantic evening at the movies can still be yours. TheWrap’s Todd Gilchrist writes that “About Last Night,” which claims David Mamet‘s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” as its original source material, overcomes a few cliches to emerge as something moving and modern.
“‘About Last Night’ makes for a pretty terrific date movie, whether it’s your first with a new special someone or the first in months for you and your long-term partner, because it demands only a commitment to be entertained while making you consider what it means to be in a relationship,” Gilchrist wrote.
Other critics were equally smitten, with the Associated Press’ Jessica Herndon hailing this look at a group of commitment-phobes and dysfunctional romantics as sexy, funny and occasionally kinky.
“Directed by Steve Pink (‘Hot Tub Time Machine’) and produced by Will Packer (‘Think Like a Man’), the film notably avoids becoming a story only for an African-American audience, proving narratives featuring characters of color can be just as universal as any other,” Herndon wrote. “Overall, this modern take is an honest look at how couples can develop, sabotage and salvage relationships in 2014.”
Then, again, you could just take your special someone to see “Robocop.”