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'Fascination': an unerotic unthriller

''Fascination," a nominal erotic thriller whose story I still can't decipher, does raise a few important questions. For instance, when two suspected spouse killers get married, who dies first? And can things bode well for the new family when his daughter and her son slip out of the wedding ceremony to make love on a slanted roof in a sudden rainstorm?

I'm afraid this is one of those movies, one where ''plot" is another word for ''gratuitous sex scene." Here, the young lovers are Scott (Adam Garcia) and Kelly (Alice Evans), brand new stepsiblings who do indeed go about their consummation on the day of Mom and Dad's nuptials. He's miffed that his mother, Maureen (Jacqueline Bisset), has agreed to marry Oliver (Stuart Wilson) so soon after his father's mysterious death -- and while on vacation! (''What is it about cruise ships?" Kelly wonders.)

Oliver, meanwhile, is a widower himself. His wife died mysteriously, too. And eventually, we find out -- well, I found out (you, reader, should stay away and just take my word for it) -- that the deaths bear some relation to each other. Figuring this out, though, requires the two kids to sit around Maureen's Puerto Rican Shangri La and have numerous expository conversations. Kelly, it seems, is already trying to plant seeds of suspicion in her new lover's head. Scott's dad was a silver-medalist swimmer in the 1964 Olympics, ''but he died in a swimming accident. It's weird," she says. Then she tells a story of how her father might have been mixed up in her mother's death. What is Kelly up to?

Scott confronts his mother with his doubts about her new husband. She's taken aback: ''For someone as young and for someone as artistically inclined as you are, you've become quite judgmental." Who can say what one thing has to do with the other, but what more can you expect from a movie whose production notes make no immediate mention of a screenwriter?

Some digging around does reveal that the German-born, first-time director Klaus Menzel got ahold of Daryl Haney and John Jacobs's ancient script (it's from 1989). ''Now came the hard part: making it my own," the notes quote him as saying. So perhaps we have only him to thank for a line like ''Let me kiss you through the pain," which Kelly whispers to Scott before their sopping wet, rooftop tryst gets underway. (Thank you, Klaus. Thank you so much.)

It's believable that the screenplay was originally a parody, but it was written at a time when erotic thrillers had a certain sleazy seriousness. Say it with me: ''Wild Orchid." (Incidentally, that movie also starred Bisset, as a woman filled with lust and danger whenever Mickey Rourke was around.) Fifteen years later, it's possible that Menzel's flaccid movie just feels parodic, because no one says ''I want you to dig up my father's grave" anymore and means it.

Garcia, who was Piper Perabo's charismatic boy toy in ''Coyote Ugly," once seemed bound for minor stardom. So much for that. Here he seems to be strangling his native Australian accent in order to speak in a flat American-ish voice. Evans is worse. Whenever she delivers a line, her face twitches and contorts as though she were having an allergic reaction to her dialogue. There's better acting in the display windows of some department stores.

Garcia and Evans have the sort of chemistry that could be used at middle schools across the country to encourage abstinence. The couple enjoys one long, unsexy dance at a nightclub on the beach that will make you never want to go near that stepsibling hookup fantasy again.

Wesley Morris can be reached at

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