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There’s a kind of weird perversion behind the love story at the center of Keith. That love conquers all hardly removes the acrid taste of an overwritten, contrivance-ridden plot that requires a monumental viewer suspension of disbelief.

The Details

Two stars
Jesse McCartney, Elisabeth Harnois, Michael O’Keefe.
Directed by Todd Kessler.
Not Rated.
Opens Friday.
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Natalie (Harnois) has it all: A tennis scholarship to Duke and the affections of the most popular guy on campus. But into her life bursts the titular character (McCartney), all smug and polished one-liners, as if he underwent the Ludovico technique using Judd Nelson movies. He insinuates himself into her life, finding ways to pull her out of her comfort zone and live life without structure, only to yank the rug out when she gets comfortable. Natalie becomes obsessive, and soon realizes that Keith is not what he seems—the alternately glib and brooding guy is hiding a tragic secret, and has decided to take Natalie along for the ride.

If this sounds like torture, it is, both for Natalie and the viewing public. And it’s hard to take either of these characters too seriously, as the school they attend is the kind where everything exists except logic—where a student’s test grade is seemingly known by the entire school, but where another student’s home address remains a mystery to all concerned; where a teacher knowingly allows a student to choose another as a lab partner, even though assignments are supposed to be random; where a student can go missing for two weeks with no one looking into his well-being. In short, it’s the school of tear-jerking manipulation, where a plot device that should be obvious to our heroine goes unknown until the end, only to be revealed with an “I thought you knew.”

Please. That McCartney and Harnois are an appealing enough couple when not in the trappings of the After School Special-like script is beside the point. This movie earns none of its tears, and feels as pre-wrapped as a Fresh & Easy entree. (A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to Keith goes to the Lili Claire Foundation.)

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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