• by Wes Singleton

Forever My Girl, C-

Rated PG, 104 minutes

There's so many icky, syrupy sweet moments in the laughably earnest new romantic drama "Forever My Girl" you'll leave with a headache, though that could be that it's just bad. Interestingly, this country-fried Nicholas Sparks knockoff is made better by a precocious young child actor and a couple of decent country songs, if that's your thing.

When country music superstar Liam Page ("Rings'" Alex Roe) returns to his hometown, he runs into Josie ("Happy Death Day's" Jessica Rothe, who's better than this), the bride he left at the altar, choosing fame and fortune instead. Their relationship was left unresolved as he never got over her or forgot his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. While there for the funeral of his high school best friend, he is faced with the consequences of all that he left behind.

The forgettable, painful "Forever My Girl" is written and directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf and shouldn't be a willful movie choice, unless you're forced to go with some tween girls you might be related to. The most obvious reason they'll go is for the eye candy: the handsome British actor Roe (playing a likable but dopey fella here), and Blake Lively-lookalike Rothe, as the two appealing young lovers, one of whom is now a big country music sensation. As if the romance angle isn't bad enough, that means we also have to listen to some mediocre country tunes, though a couple of them at the end are decent.

"Forever My Girl" would be totally forgettable if not for a couple of things: the delightful Abby Ryder Forsten ("Ant-Man") steals all the scenes she's in as the couple's young, precocious daughter, who's smarter and more keenly observant than her parents give her credit for  ("I guess we have to try to get to know each other," she tells her Dad). You can't help but smile when she gives her clueless Dad crash statistics for convertibles.

Second, and while country music isn't a favorite of mine, there were a couple of decent tunes that came near the end: "Smoking & Crying," something that reminded of something Dwight Yoakam would've done, and the silly "Finally Home," only because it also features the utterly charming Forsten, who still manages to upstage the handsome Roe.

Narratively, the film is a bit of a slog, and Ashton's unfocused direction doesn't help its pacing problems. "Forever My Girl" isn't a metaphor: it seems to take forever to get where it's going, and then when it finally does, it seems to rush things too much in a baffling last act that has some some major plot points summarized in a montage (not to mention it skims over Liam's alcohol problem). But hey, at least country singer Travis Tritt cameos, if you know who that is.

Speaking of which, "Forever My Girl" should hit its target audience of tween girls just fine. For the rest of us, go see "Star Wars" again.

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