There's a new software available called "Teensex," and it's a wondrous thing. Shove the disk into any IBM-compatible computer, tickle the keyboard for five minutes, and by the time you've sung all the verses to "A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall" you've got a screenplay. Call it "Secret Admirer," buy yourself a Jaguar and a house in the Valley, have your girl call my girl. Let's have lunch.
Actually, "Secret Admirer" is a cut above the usual teen sex comedy, which is sort of like Caspar Weinberger saying, "Six hundred bucks, sure, but it was a heckuva ashtray." It's "Cyrano de Bergerac" for the Clearasil set. Michael (C. Thomas Howell) is ga-ga for Debora Anne Fimple (Kelly Preston). One day he gets a love letter from a secret admirer, and his friends convince him it's Debora Anne. So he writes a letter back and asks his best girl-buddy, Toni (the adorable Lori Loughlin), to deliver it. She rewrites it for him, and Debora Anne goes ga-ga back.
Who do you think Michael's secret admirer is? Jeez, do you think it could be . . . Toni???!!!
The software has done its work; the screenplay comes complete with (1) confused virgin hero, (2) girl-buddy whom he's really in love with all along, (3) evil frat brothers, (4) many beers, (5) adult authority figures who are as sex-addled as the kids, (6) heavy metal rock score. Or, as they say in Hollywood, it's like "The Sure Thing" but with a gang of friends like "Risky Business" and it ends like "The Graduate," or at least it's the same car as "The Graduate."
Tacked onto this is a subplot in which the secret admirer's letters fall into the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Fimple and Mr. and Mrs. Ryan, who immediately assume that Mr. Ryan is having an affair with Mrs. Fimple. The farce is always threatening to ignite but never does. Director David Greenwalt has brought "Secret Admirer" a sense of visual style, some energy and a few good zingers, but the movie (which he cowrote with Jim Kouf) is smothered by the formula.
Howell seems to have profited from all the blood he drank in "Red Dawn" -- his performance is less anemic than usual, but his attempts at broad humor fall flat. Likewise Preston, whose send-up of a Valley Girl keeps hammering the same note. The only truly bright spot in "Secret Admirer" is Fred Ward as Debora Anne's dad, a vice-squad detective. The hard-featured Ward breathes menace, and when he gets angry a vein on his temple blows in and out like a gerbil's belly. Here's a man who takes no guff, but gets loads of it anyway, who can say, "Bridge club, right, that'll be the perfect time to blow this thing wide open" with all the seriousness of Gen. MacArthur. Now that's farce.
Secret Admirer, opening today at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains nudity in sexual situations and profanity.