By Erik Pedersen
But while Emily Bronte's revered Victorian novel delves into their emotional fragility, this fluffy telefilm simply plays to the modern-day teen's get-to-the-point sensibilities -- with a musical backdrop and lots of making out, of course.
The names have been changed to protect the uncool. Erika Christensen plays Cate, who lives an isolated life with her father (X man John Doe) and brother, Hendrix (Johnny Whitworth), in their lighthouse estate called the Heights. After a mysterious "stray" child named Heath (played later in adulthood by Mike Vogel) becomes part of the family, Dad has a new favorite, Hendrix is jealous, and Cate is smitten.
After a jarring fast-forward of about 10 years, Cate and Heath are inseparable lovers. He has become a scruffy, studly budding musician. She is devoted to him but is restless to experience life beyond the Heights. Big changes force Heath to hit the road.
Cate eventually settles for marrying the timid, serious Edward (Christopher Kennedy Masterson), whose rich-bitch sister Isabel (Katherine M. Heigl) has the hots for Heath. Despite their separation, Cate and Heath -- who has become a reluctant overnight rock star -- continue to pine for each other. After brief happiness, tragedy looms.
Suri Krishnamma directs "Heights" like a music video -- quick edits, arty dissolves, forced pacing -- and uses any excuse to put music in play, including having Christensen and Vogel sing. "Bat Out of Hell" composer Jim Steinman, who also exec produces, contributed songs to the project.
The acting is generic, with far too many lines whispered or shouted in an effort to hammer home emotions. Christensen's giddy-to-weepy Cate never engages us, and Vogel plays Heath like a hybrid of James Dean and Kurt Cobain, never nearing the charisma of either. The other characters never get enough attention, which is fine because we don't care much about them anyway.
The telepic's biggest asset is Claudio Chea's vibrant cinematography, which makes grand use of the Puerto Rico locations. Otherwise, it's a tiresome endeavor.
Warning to students: If your teacher assigns a book report on "Wuthering Heights," don't base it on this adaptation.
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