Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:30 - Released 3/31/99

Lately in the teen movie column, we have seen many classics of literature: "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" (Cruel Intentions), "Pygmalion" (She's All That), and now Gil Junger's 10 Things I Hate About You. This is the first writing effort by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and it shows, but they've hired the best of collaborators: William Shakespeare. The bard's works have been updated to death, of course, but this high school version of The Taming Of The Shrew is fresh and light, and contains some nice work by several young actors. The script is peppered with cute little Shakespearean references — characters have last names like "Stratford" and "Verona" — but it is also full of the traditional high school stereotypes, as usual.

Padua High School's prom is rapidly approaching, and sweet-young-sophomore Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik, The Secret World of Alex Mack) doesn't want to be left out. Her angry-feminist older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is not only opposed to the "outdated ritual" of the prom, but against dating in general, since she can't find a boy who is anywhere near her intellectual equal. What's more, the girls' overprotective father (Larry Miller), an obstetrician who constantly deals with teen pregnancies, has a strict rule: no dating. Period. After some whining and cajoling, however, Bianca gets him to agree to a more lenient policy, but one that he still thinks is perfectly safe. Bianca may only attend the prom if Kat does. Naturally, this pits sister against sister and makes Bianca's happiness contingent upon Kat's selling out of her values system. Interesting parental choice.

Bianca is sooooooo attractive that she has two possible suitors for the big night: Ultra nice-guy Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 3rd Rock from the Sun), who is new at the school and loves Bianca for more than just her looks — though, frankly, there isn't much else there; and rich, conceited Joey (Andrew Keegan), with whom she is enamored mainly because of his shiny red convertible.

Cameron and geeky-but-likeable Michael (David Krumholtz, who looks and acts exactly like a younger version of Bruno Kirby), conspire with Joey on a complex plan to make almost everyone happy: Joey will pay top dollar to school bad-ass Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) if he can convince Kat to attend the prom with him. Then Bianca will be allowed to go with Joey. Joey agrees, but what he doesn't know is that Cameron plans to ask Bianca out himself. Bianca, who would be happy to go with either of the boys, willingly gets in on the plot, and so the payment is made and the plans are set. But when Patrick starts following Kat around and researching her likes and dislikes — you know, stalking her — the plan backfires and he becomes fully enamored.

Unlike many high school movies, 10 Things contains actors who are able to rise above the silly stereotypes and give their characters life. It's not a bad script; the main plot is intricate and clever, but that's Shakespeare's doing. It's the details by Lutz and Smith that are weak. The actors do as well as possible with what they have, though, with the help of director Junger. It must be said that they accomplish the difficult task of making both sisters protagonists, although they are generally at odds with each other throughout the film.

The decision to put out-takes during the end credits may be a mixed blessing: They're funny, but clearly illustrate that some of the movie's most lively exchanges never made it into the final print. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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