1999 - R - 97 Mins.
|Director: Roger Kumble
|Producer: Neal H. Moritz
|Written By: Roger Kumble
|Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Joshua Jackson
|Review by: John Ulmer
I'm sick and tired of these crappy teen "updates" of classic films that aren't half as good as the source material and somehow rake in millions more.
Hello? We're still waiting on that script!
One must wonder how in the world this ever got made in the first place. And how in the world did it ever become a box office smash? The majority of the filmgoers must have been teenagers, because I doubt any educated cinemagoer could actually enjoy *this*, much less recommend it to someone else. I could be wrong, but I somehow doubt it. (Roger Ebert liked it. Why? How?)
Forgive my condescending tone, but this film is a disaster. Essentially a lackluster teen update of "Dangerous Liaisons," "Cruel Intentions" concerns the bet between step-siblings Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) and Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar with black hair). If Sebastian can lay Annette (Reese Witherspoon), a virgin, then he gets to keep Kathryn for himself. But if he fails, then Kathryn gets his Jaguar. Simple enough, yes?
Not so. Annette is very reserved about her feelings and her body, which provides a bit of a problem for Sebastian. But let's face it: we all know what's going to happen between them. Without spoiling the movie, our first thoughts are that Sebastian will manage to get Annette into bed, then realize that he really loves her, and develope a conscience in the process. I'm not going to confirm or deny this as truth, but I will say that a lot of the assumptions you probably have about what happens in this movie are correct.
This could have been an intriguing film, to be blatantly honest. Some teen updates, such as "Romeo + Juliet," have a unique style that provides the audience with something new. Not here. Sure, "Cruel Intentions" is well executed technically, but it brings nothing new to the party, and you're going to be left with a sour taste in your mouth after it's over. You're also going to be continually checking your watch to see how much longer the film is and slapping your own head every time the stupid characters on-screen mutter their scripted words.
Still, even with its polished technical competency aside, "Cruel Intentions" had potential as a sort of stupid but entertaining film. But Phillippe is one of the worst actors of the decade, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is no hot catch, either. Every production they touch usually ends up either disappointing or awful (sometimes both), including "Scooby-Doo" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer."
And Witherspoon, the best young actress in the film, is entirely subdued here. She seems like an utter dipsy-doodle idiot stuck between two non-related siblings. Which is the point. But she doesn't seem very intriguing at all, and her performance in 2001's "Legally Blonde" is by far a much better one. She basically played the same part, with the same corny dialogue, but that movie was a comedy that intended its audience to laugh at the character. Here she is actually meant to be taken seriously, which is almost as laughable as the effect produced by the film in final analysis.
Based on Choderlos de Laclos' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and its original 1988 film remake with John Malkovich, "Cruel Intentions" is nothing but a modern day pale imitation of a greater work. Its dialogue is ridiculous and its characters are all stereotypical. We know where the film is going long before it seems to know that we know that, which means we get a lot of stupid and cliched moments in between.
This is a bad movie, and a bad remake. Perhaps with someone clever behind the helm, and with better actors and actresses, this could have been worthwhile. But then it would have just been "Dangerous Liaisons," would it not?