Salted with every ounce of bitterness suggested by the title, “Love Stinks” lacks the comic style or abandon to make its cynical turn on male-female relationships anything more than a short-lived stunt. Pic’s low concept is to create a 180-degree spin on the date movie, and the result is just short of bilious. The casting of “3rd Rock From the Sun” clown French Stewart provides the only life force onscreen, but his dominant performance also tends to heighten perception that this is a crudely misogynist movie in which the guys are victims and the gals are bitches, bimbos, or both. Ultra-crowded marketplace has little room for such obviously direct-to-vid fare, and will quickly squeeze the B.O. life out of this minor effort from upstart distrib Independent Artists.
Tyro helmer Jeff Franklin comes out of the sitcom world as creator of “Full House” and “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” and the world of “Love Stinks” is fully informed by sitcomese. Though new project’s R-rated dialogue and situations take Franklin far afield from his family-fare “Full House,” there are several links, including preoccupation with all things Elvis, oil-and-water individuals forced to live under the same roof and a raft of characters who work in showbiz. Stewart’s Seth is one of them, as creator and head writer on romantic sitcom “Ronnie and Juliet,” with co-writer and newlywed pal Larry (Bill Bellamy).
Seth and fiancee Chelsea (Bridgette Wilson) board a Vegas-bound plane with Larry and his wife, Chelsea’s gal-pal Holly (Tyra Banks). While Seth is mentally going through his wedding plans, Larry aims to convince him to drop Chelsea before she eats him alive. Larry recalls, in a flashback consuming 80 minutes of screen time, the nightmarish course of Seth and Chelsea’s relationship, which began with their meeting at Larry and Holly’s pre-wedding party.
Even as Seth manages to get her in the sack, he’s unwittingly playing under her “rules” (never sleep with a guy until after your third meal with him). Interior decorator Chelsea immediately takes charge of Seth’s messy abode, while strategically dropping bridal magazines around the place.
Script thickly and obviously lays on Chelsea’s manipulative ways — including micromanaging Seth’s casting of bimbos for parts in his show — without making something comic and substantial of Seth’s sexual dependency on the blonde. As she takes control, he’s reduced to a meekly complaisant putz, willing to put up with her waspishness for what he claims is terrific sex (of which we barely get a glimpse) but stripped of the dignity of even a sad-sack comic hero. It finally takes a petulant and ugly outburst from Chelsea, angered that he would give her only $10,000 diamond ear studs rather than her coveted ring, for Seth to call things off.
Matters turn ugly at midpoint, when Chelsea slaps him with a palimony lawsuit. Even here it takes Seth time to work up a lather of anger, reducing him to pathetic victim rather than anyone resembling a thinking man who makes a living writing about relationships. Pic runs out of gags, ideas and good sense, with Seth and Chelsea unbelievably living together until their palimony hearing.
Miscalculations abound in this woman-hating agenda, among them unfunny bathroom humor and pet abuse several grades lower than in “There’s Something About Mary.” Perfs run the gamut from a bland Bellamy to a hapless Banks, who ends up being thoroughly dislikable. Wilson is carving out a career in bitch-from-hell roles, and while she has a few laughs this time, her acting limitations are all too clear. Trying to rise about it all, Stewart delivers so-so lines with Swiss-watch timing but comes off as a comic character actor stuck in an impossible lead role. Tech credits are paltry at best, marred by an inept sound mix.