By the time it's done, the movie "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" could make you hate the title tune - it's played to the point of aggravation. But many of the characters wear out their welcome well before then.
A fictionalized account of the 1985 legal battle over the royalty rights of that song, which was a hit for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers in the 1950s, this highly uneven musical biography features a few appealing performances. Unfortunately, they don't include those from either of the stars, Halle Berry and Vivica A. Fox.In addition to this duo's shrill lead turns, there's also the matter of the film's tone. Director Gregory Nava ("Selena") evidently couldn't decide whether to play scenes straight or comedically, as he mixes some highly inappropriate humorous scenes with more seriously dramatic ones.
The action flashes back and forth between the '50s, '60s and '80s, starting with the efforts of Lymon's middle-aged widow Elizabeth Waters (Fox) to obtain royalty money that his estate was owed from the hit 1981 remake of the song by Diana Ross.
But two other women, former Platters vocalist Zola Taylor (Berry) and demure Southern schoolteacher Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon), show up claiming to be Lymon's widow, leading to a bitter courtroom showdown.
Under oath, all three women tell of their relationships with the singer (Larenz Tate), who quickly rose to fame but fell just as swiftly, eventually dying from a drug overdose in the late 1960s.
Evidently Nava spent most of his time setting up tricky camera shots, since he never attempts to rein in either lead, whose performances range from hysterical (and not in the good sense) to bland.
Frankly, the film would have been much better off if it had tried to be only a biography of Lymon. Though his lip-synching skills are questionable, Tate is much better than any of his female co-stars, bringing much-needed life to the movie while he's on-screen - albeit all too briefly.
And first-time screenwriter Tina Andrews doesn't help matters with her inept efforts at social commentary. Her superficial portrait of Lymon and the three women certainly doesn't do any of them justice, either.
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" is rated R for profanity, violent fist fighting and slapping, simulated sex, use of vulgar slang and some sex talk, nudity and brief drug use.