DARN those hormones!

Teenage crush meets mid-life crisis in the multi-generational "Secret Admirer," a comedy of errors that becomes a series of botched opportunities for first-time director David Greenwalt.

An unsigned mash note sets off a romantic chain reaction, with two middle-American families -- mom, dad, the sibs -- involved in the lovelorn quandaries. There's something for everybody as the story struggles with the age gap, shifting from food fights to manners comedy in its search for an audience. Sometimes it connects, but not often.

C. Thomas Howell of the "Outsiders" plays Michael Ryan, the teenage heartthrob who receives the letter, a sexual catalyst in his and the nearby Fimple family home. His mother (Dee Wallace Stone), who finds the letter misplaced among her husband's night school books, thinks he's having an affair. Her husband (Cliff DeYoung) believes the letter came from his sexy night school teacher (Leigh Taylor-Young). And so on.

The adolescent cast features curvaceous Kelly Preston as a seductive teen queen and long-haired Lori Laughlin as the demure and deserving girl-next-door. Michael believes the buxom beauty sent the billet-doux till he inevitably learns the movie cliche: Girls with large breasts have small brains. ( See "Sure Thing.") Or as Michael says, "When you start listening, all the lights are on. But nobody's home."

To Greenwalt's credit as cowriter, there are funny lines and some situations that held promise. But his direction is early "Brady Bunch," with a daub of Ridley Scott's Chanel commercials for further inspiration.

Despite the director, the cast is decent, with Fred Ward of the "Right Stuff" in rare comic form as Lt. Lou Fimple, a vice cop who finds both his wife and his daughter undone on lover's lane.

P.S. If you worry about kids and drinking, "Secret Admirer" goes out of its way to make swilling beer a rite of teenhood and good times. -- Rita Kempley.

SECRET ADMIRER (R) -- At area theaters. 'Secret Admirer': A Disaster of Note

DARN those hormones!

Teenage crush meets mid-life crisis in the multi-generational "Secret Admirer," a comedy of errors that becomes a series of botched opportunities for first-time director David Greenwalt.

An unsigned mash note sets off a romantic chain reaction, with two middle-American families -- mom, dad, the sibs -- involved in the lovelorn quandaries. There's something for everybody as the story struggles with the age gap, shifting from food fights to manners comedy in its search for an audience. Sometimes it connects, but not often.

C. Thomas Howell of the "Outsiders" plays Michael Ryan, the teenage heartthrob who receives the letter, a sexual catalyst in his and the nearby Fimple family home. His mother (Dee Wallace Stone), who finds the letter misplaced among her husband's night school books, thinks he's having an affair. Her husband (Cliff DeYoung) believes the letter came from his sexy night school teacher (Leigh Taylor-Young). And so on.

The adolescent cast features curvaceous Kelly Preston as a seductive teen queen and long-haired Lori Laughlin as the demure and deserving girl-next-door. Michael believes the buxom beauty sent the billet-doux till he inevitably learns the movie cliche: Girls with large breasts have small brains. ( See "Sure Thing.") Or as Michael says, "When you start listening, all the lights are on. But nobody's home."

To Greenwalt's credit as cowriter, there are funny lines and some situations that held promise. But his direction is early "Brady Bunch," with a daub of Ridley Scott's Chanel commercials for further inspiration.

Despite the director, the cast is decent, with Fred Ward of the "Right Stuff" in rare comic form as Lt. Lou Fimple, a vice cop who finds both his wife and his daughter undone on lover's lane.

P.S. If you worry about kids and drinking, "Secret Admirer" goes out of its way to make swilling beer a rite of teenhood and good times.

SECRET ADMIRER (R) -- At area theaters.