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Moulin Rouge

Ambitious, daring, energetic, and entertaining —Marty Mapes (review...)

Everybody comes to the Moulin Rouge

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Love Stinks is the Antichrist of romantic comedies. It’s a “guy” movie, but it follows some of the rules of chick flicks. What it does with them, though, is push them through a bitter, black filter. The result is either an incomprehensible mess, or revenge for First Wives’ Club, depending on your point of view.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought this movie was funny. Immediately after it was over, my wife said she thought it deserved the lowest rating possible, and I overheard another woman on the phone tell a friend that it was “not very good.” On the other hand, several men in the theater hooted at all the right moments, and I found myself laughing along with them.

Why be ashamed to laugh at a comedy? Why do men and women react differently? Because the “villain” (Chelsea, played by Bridgette Wilson) is the embodiment of a stereotype: a matrimony-obsessed, man-trapping woman. I feel guilty because I’m a sensitive man who should be above such an immature view of women. (But then I also like Beavis and Butt-Head, so I guess I’m not as sensitive or mature as I thought.)

Chelsea is a neurotic femme fatale who aims to either marry Seth (French Stewart) or kill him trying. Think of Glenn Close in Basic Instinct, but less psychotic and more comedic, and you’ll start to get an idea of who she is. Admittedly, she’s not a very well-rounded character. She’s more a situation than a person.

Seth is a sitcom writer living in a bachelor-pad wasteland. He’s not looking for a new girlfriend, but when he sees Chelsea, he becomes infatuated. He dumps his current girlfriend to go out with the new one.

Chelsea is a decorator and “professional bridesmaid,” as she likes to say (they met at a friend’s wedding). But as soon as she’s in Seth’s life, she gives it all up to be his personal decorator and stay-at-home girlfriend.

The movie follows their progress as a couple, through the tumultuous saying of “I love you” to talking about children. Through bickering and fighting to serious discussions about marriage. Through it all (and with the help of the narrator), you can see the subtle manipulative implementation of Chelsea’s scheme to win Seth’s hand.

Eventually, Seth decides he’d rather not be with Chelsea. But somehow, she manages to keep him living under the same roof. Pretty soon they are engaged — in an all-out War of the Roses. (God help me for saying it, but this movie actually has a funny fart joke.)

But in spite of my amusement, I will not recommend it. Some of the bigger problems are that Seth and Chelsea’s friends (Tyra Banks, Bill Bellamy) are too similar and badly developed. They could have provided some sort of grounded contrast to the exaggerated love/hate. Instead, they are almost exact duplicates of the main couple. Also, some of the jokes are uninspired and cheap, like Seth’s fascination with Elvis, or Chelsea’s devotion to her cat. Worst of all is the utter two-dimensionality of most of the characters, including all of the women.

Love Stinks fills a niche that is so far pretty empty. It’s an inverted chick-flick. It’s a romantic comedy for cynical men. That probably makes it dumber and meaner than a lot of other movies. If you go, don’t laugh. And if you laugh, don’t say I sent you.