Whatever the reason, most likely some combination of love and money, it's '80s flashback time at the multiplex this Valentine's Day — at least for those of us who were old enough in the Reagan era to get turned on (or off) by the promise of Rob Lowe and/or Brooke Shields in the buff.
The Hollywood remakes of Shields' "Endless Love" (1981) and Lowe's "About Last Night … " (1986) that are due in theaters Friday appear to retain the originals' salient and sellable qualities, including syrupy pop ballads, teasing glimpses of nudity, and youth-baiting views of romance as obsessive and destructive, but oh so hot.
Still, one could hardly be blamed for staying home with the old reliables. Both '80s films are available on demand: "Love" is free (!) on SnagFilms (with ads), or on Netflix and Hulu Plus with subscription, while "About Last Night …" is available for purchase on iTunes, Vudu and Google Play.
With his tale of a smoldering teenage boy (one-hit wonder Martin Hewitt) who has an ultimately demented fixation on his younger girlfriend (Shields), "Love" maker Franco Zeffirelli appears to have been profoundly influenced by the aesthetics of perfume commercials. Every other shot features a young lover's starry gaze bathed in heavenly light.
Critic Pauline Kael called Zeffirelli's movie an "icky, shapeless mess" — hardly the harshest of the film's reviews. Variety wrote, "One can never really tell what [Shields'] responses to sex are because she's smiling all the time." Indeed, "Endless Love" is tough to endure — as is teen romance itself, you might say.
Director Edward Zwick's "About Last Night … " is infinitely peppier in its story of lovers in their mid-20s — Danny (Lowe) and Debbie (Demi Moore), gorgeous Chicagoans who meet cute in a bar, hook up, quickly move in together and … well, that ellipsis in the title is convenient here.
Zwick's slick style shows his own crush on '80s-era MTV. Kael mused: "It's like being pounded on the back every two minutes when your back is already sore." Ouch!
What to expect from the remakes? With TV actors Michael Ealy ("Almost Human") and Joy Bryant ("Parenthood") in the Lowe and Moore roles, the new "About Last Night" loses the ellipses but keeps the R rating as well as the credit to David Mamet for writing "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," the one-act play on which both films are based, however loosely.
"Endless Love," with lesser-knowns Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer, secures a PG-13 despite "sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying." But it somehow gets away with ditching an acknowledgment of Scott Spencer's 1979 novel.
Whatever the merits of the new "Love," its ad tagline — "Say goodbye to innocence" — can't hold a scented candle to the original's: "She is 15. He is 17. The love every parent fears."
My own mother was certainly afraid in the scorching summer of '81, banning her movie-loving kid from seeing Shields' racy follow-up to "The Blue Lagoon." Of course, I sneaked in anyway. Sorry, Mom.
Also notable on VOD
To me, and to none other than the late Stanley Kubrick as well, one of the greatest of all '80s love stories is Albert Brooks' "Modern Romance" (1981), available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play, and worth every penny.
Easily the most neurotic male protagonist in all of romantic comedy, Brooks' outrageously self-obsessed, self-loathing and self-destructive film editor Robert Cole breaks up and makes up with sweet bank employee Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold) several times in the course of the movie — which, while utterly hilarious, is actually quite serious in its bid to convince the viewer that he's not nearly as crazy in love as he could be.