10 Things I Hate About You (1999) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude sex related humor and dialogue, alcohol and drug-related scenes, all involving teens
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Gabrielle Union, Andrew Keegan, Larry Miller, David Leisure, Allison Janney, Daryl Mitchell
Director: Gil Junger
Screenplay: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Review published August 18, 2001
Hey, I guess anybody can make a movie nowadays. It's quite a simple formula, really. First, take a time-honored story from a great writer -- Shakespeare, for instance. Update it to modern times so people will readily identify with it, as period pieces are even more foreign to today's mallrat teenyboppers than science fiction. Then remove all of the poetry and prose that made the original story so compelling, and dumb everything down so any gum-chewing, hair-twirling twerp in the audience can understand what's going on. When casting the film, eschew any attempts at quality performers -- go for whoever the audience will fawn over, drooling in their popcorn buckets for the duration. Last but not least, make sure you pump out some jams for the kick-ass soundtrack, so that said teenyboppers will flock to the nearest mall and scoop it up, running to their homes immediately plopping on their beds, cranking up the tunes while gabbing on the phone to their friends about how cute (ADD LEAD ACTOR'S NAME HERE) is. On the way home from cashing your big check, stop by the local library to find another great author to rape for your next film.
OK, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh here. I'm actually not angry at the film for being bad, as it does have it's occasional moments. I am merely annoyed that the producers of today make inferior films that with a little more work and ingenuity could actually be good as well as entertaining. In 10 Things the writers take Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" as its inspiration, but outside of the names of several characters resembling that of the famous play and the basic plotline, there really isn't anything else that correlates.
Here's the plot: An overly protective father (Miller, Pretty Woman) refuses to allow his pretty and popular youngest daughter (Oleynik, 100 Girls) go out on a date unless her older, belligerently anti-social sister (Stiles, Mona Lisa Smile) goes out with a boy first. Knowing this, some boys interested in the younger sister pay off another anti-social boy (Ledger, A Knight's Tale) to try to woo the older sister and take her out so they can finally start seeing the younger one.
Taking the film on its own terms, there appears to be all of the elements to produce a winning film, with a likeable cast and a few decent ideas in the mix, but the writing and directing get in the way whenever things start to get interesting. First, the two main characters are supposed to be wildly dislikeable and tempestuous, but they play more like rather modest nonconformists that find identity in being themselves rather than do what everyone else thinks they should do to be happy. The adults in the film are ridiculously one-dimensional, starting off with the ludicrous Ms. Perky (Janney, American Beauty) who spends her time writing lusty stories, to Mr. Morgan (Mitchell, Galaxy Quest) who berates his class for no reason, and finally to the loving father, who stifles the kids with idiotic conditional rules rather than do some actual parenting.
Now that I'm done ranting, here's the obligatory top 10 list (you didn't think I'd forget, did you?):
Here are "10 Things I Learned" by watching 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
1. All adults are easily duped simpletons who care more about their own vices than in the welfare of children.
2. People who express individuality and choose paths of nonconformity should be seen as "psycho bitches with chronic perpetual PMS" or "crazy sociopathic criminals".
3. The latest dance moves can still be easily performed by someone who never goes out socially.
4. There's nothing strange about a guy whose inflections sound American in one line and perfect Australian the next repeatedly.
5. Happiness can only be achieved by ditching deep-rooted, heartfelt values and going out dancing.
6. It's not only worth $100 a day to pay a guy to try to go out with the sister of the girl you want to go out with, but it's a good plan because he obviously won't see any incentive to milk the days and get maximum profit.
7. Girls who are dead-set against going out with a guy at any cost will immediately change their minds about it if the guy can make them laugh just once.
8. A long-haired pretty boy can seriously be thought of as the school badass.
9. A group of suburban Seattle white kids who listen to nothing but pop/rock will enjoy "rockin' out" at a party that plays nothing but funky old school jams.
10. A girl that flashes her boobs at a teacher, helps her boyfriend ditch detention, and intentionally demolishes a fellow student's car in the parking lot will not get into trouble, but if she makes the fatal mistake of voicing her opinions she is immediately sent out for counseling.
Yeah, I could have listed the 10 Things I Hated about this film, but that would be tired and predictable...words which would no doubt be mentioned in Thing #1 on that list.
©1999 Vince Leo