Picks and Pans Review: Secret Admirer

updated 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

How many new ideas can come from the timeworn premise of love letters mistakenly falling into the wrong hands? None from David Greenwalt, at least, the director of this film, a sex farce with all the heart of an answering machine. High schooler C. Thomas (Red Dawn) Howell is smitten by Val Gal Kelly (Mischief) Preston and receives a love letter he believes came from her. He writes back. Of course the correspondence goes through Lori (Amityville 3-D) Loughlin, his best friend and the actual author of the first letter. A series of conventional mishaps leads to a frantic, romantic quadrangle between Howell's parents, played by Dee (ET) Wallace Stone and Cliff (Protocol) De Young, and Preston's parents, played by Leigh (TV's The Hamptons) Taylor-Young and Fred (The Right Stuff) Ward. The plot is so thin that the fine cast is made to seem moribund. Howell is one of the few young actors around who successfully plays his age; his acting style falls somewhere between the brooding force-fulness of Matt Dillon and the comic timing of Anthony Michael Hall. Loughlin, who spent three and a half years getting kidnapped as "Jody Travis" on The Edge of Night, is a fresh film personality. But this appealing couple is thrust into an environment filled with grating characters unworthy of the attention they get onscreen. Wallace Stone and Preston whine endlessly; Ward and Cory Haim, as Howell's obnoxious little brother, steal money from family members; even Taylor-Young's and De Young's fumbling attempt at infidelity gets wearisome. Secret Admirer should have been a totally clandestine affair. (R)

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