Hollywood has been running out of ideas for years – remakes, sequels, prequels and reboots now seem to be the order of the day. What's hard to imagine is why anyone thought a remake of Endless Love was necessary in the first place. The 1981 film of the same name – based on a pulpy, albeit well-regarded, novel by Scott Spencer – wasn't even that good to begin with. At least that version of the story had the distinction of starring a young, nubile Brooke Shields, not to mention a title song that became more famous than the movie itself. This remake manages to be both extremely bland and painfully melodramatic, bled of almost any hint of controversy or genuine complexity and darkness.
Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) is the quintessential poor little rich girl: a beautiful, blonde ice princess who has shut herself in with her parents, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) and Anne (Joely Richardson), after the untimely death of her brother Chris. David (Alex Pettyfer) is a kid from the poorer side of town who has nursed a crush on her throughout high school. She's college-bound, he just wants to work in his dad's (Robert Patrick) workshop. When they finally connect, sparks fly and Jade starts to re-think the safe, perfect future she's planned with Hugh.
It's all very cookie-cutter high-school romantic melodrama. Nothing about this film feels particularly fresh or smart, although it does start out a little better than you'd expect. But, after the initial meet-cute between Jade and a thoroughly smitten David, Endless Love quickly descends into trashy predictability: Hugh does everything within his power to get rid of David, but the spark of love and lust between the star-crossed couple burns so hot and bright that nothing will stand in their way.
What's frustrating is that the film has almost completely excised anything even remotely complex about its plot and characters. The 1981 movie may have been faintly terrible and soapy, but it at least made a stab at psychological darkness, suggesting that the 'endless love' of the title bordered more on creepy, damaging obsession than sweet, romantic love. There's no such suggestion here: David is troubled but ultimately noble; Jade is purely, truly in love; and it's the curmudgeonly Hugh who must realise the errors of his ways.
The cast is watchable but not really memorable. Pettyfer broods as if he knows he's meant for better things. Wilde is effortlessly, often stunningly beautiful, but doesn't have much to offer beyond that. Greenwood has the most scenery to chew – he practically twirls an invisible moustache and cackles at some points – but it's Richardson who walks away with the film's few affecting moments (even though her character loses much of its shock value in morphing into the archetypal loyal, loving housewife).
You would imagine that, in a cinematic landscape overrun by remakes, these films would – at the minimum – have something interesting to say about the times in which we live now. They can make a case for their existence, perhaps, by being a little edgier than the original films: explaining why there's a need to tell this old story again. Endless Love doesn't really manage that. Instead, by forgoing depth and darkness for schmaltz and sentiment, it ends up being even safer and sweeter than a movie shot over thirty years ago.