Finally, a Date Film for the Lobotomized

ATCL_7.jpgThere's a telling paragraph in the production notes for the new romantic comedy And Then Came Love: "On the first day of production, a grip was electrocuted and had to be rushed to the emergency room; a P.A. had a fender bender in a rented production vehicle; the location fee ended up being twice what was anticipated; and a second meal was called as production went over schedule. [Producer/writer Caytha] Jentis did her best to recall the deep breathing exercises from her Lamaze class."

Instead, Ms. Jentis should have looked up the Ten Plagues in the Bible. God was apparently giving her a hint: "Stop or your creative first born will be decimated." And believe me, God wasn't pulling any punches.

What we have here is a low-budget, colorless 99 minutes of insipid dialogue, lackluster performances (with one exception), a stale Chick Lit plot, and direction by Richard Schenkman that should be highlighted at every film course in America: "Watch what this chap has wrought, and do the opposite."

The story depicted here is a modest one, but simplicity is not in itself a fault. As Leonardo da Vinci once noted, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Leo, however, should have included the qualifier "often."

Anyway, driven magazine columnist Julie (Vanessa Williams) is raising six-year-old Jake (Jeremy Gumbs) all by her lonesome, which is only fair. After all, she spawned him alone after a trip to a sperm bank.

At first glance, Julie has everything a modern woman could desire: a beautiful son; a job she adores; a handsome, successful photographer boyfriend named Ted (Michael Boatman); an understanding homosexual boss (Stephen Spinella); and an acidic, interfering mom (Eartha Kitt) who wants her wed.

But then Jake starts acting up. Yes, the lad is troublesome to say the least. Hey, this behavior is definitely not from her side of the family. Whose seed is responsible for this terror tot? To find out, Julie hires a private investigator.

The "villain," it turns out, is the very sweet Paul (Kevin Daniels), a struggling actor who's starring in a Weehawken, New Jersey, production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Any fans of Oscar Wilde, run for the hills.

The problem here is that neither Paul nor Mr. Daniels can act. This would-be thespian's one charismatic moment is when he goes shirtless. The man does sport an exceptional set of pectoral muscles, but then who doesn't these days?

Back to the plot: Julie against her will falls for poor Paul while still dating rich Ted. Whom will she wind up with? Duh! And will Paul ever learn he's Jake's father? Duh to the second power!

The only times festivities liven up are when Ms. Kitt shows up and does her diva bit. Now 80, this superb songstress and highly underrated actress vitalizes the proceedings to such a degree that everyone else seems that much drab when she vacates the screen.

The lovely Williams is especially ineffectual, whether she's hiding behind trees in Central Park with her mouth open or kvetching about the cards life has dealt her. As for Gumbs, he's not an especially endearing child, Boatman is beyond bland, and Spinella, once one of our great stage actors, is apparently in need of a paycheck.

But the main problem here is Caytha Jentis's witless, by-the-numbers screenplay, a better name for which would have been And Then Came Ineptitude. – Brandon Judell

And Then Came Love opens June 15. You have been warned.

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Mr. Judell, who's currently teaching "Contemporary Israeli/Palestinian Cinema" at City College, has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and dozens of other publications.

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