10 Things I Hate About You, the feature film debut of TV veteran Gil Junger, has the feel of a TV sitcom. If you’ve turned on your tube in the last ten years you’ve run into this formula over and over again: kids who seem sex crazed and loony on the outside but are world wise, conservative and sensitive at heart, ruled by parents and teachers who are imbeciles on the surface and deviants just below it.
"Think Taming of the Shrew," the kind publicist said, as we sat down in the theater. Did she mean "There’s small choice in rotten apples?" (Taming of the Shrew, Act I, Scene 1)
This production, these situations and characters, are to Shakespeare what advertising is to truth. Kat, the girl we are supposed to hate (Julie Stiles – the "Shrew”), is the only person in the cast with a brain. Cameron, the hero for whom we are supposed to cheer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is a wimp with no redeeming characteristics. Patrick (Heath Ledger), the man/boy who tames the shrew, is asked to convince us that he didn’t really do a year in San Quentin for selling his own liver, like all the kids think, but instead was in Milwaukee caring for his aged grandfather. This would be a stretch for Harrison Ford. Heath Ledger ain’t Harrison Ford.
The Teenager Who Knows All, who saw this film with me, liked it. He agreed it was preposterous, but enjoyed the music and pretty girls. Everyone in the school is gorgeous, even the leather ladies in the Skunk Club. Stadium High School in Tacoma, Washington, is pretty. There are several nice panoramic views of the water.
But "Tush! tush! Fear boys with bugs." (Act I, Scene 2). Your middle-schoolers will enjoy this PG-13 film (no violence, no sex). They will find the world of Stadium High to be titillating and full of the promise of beautiful bodies -and a live band at the prom. Ha!
Anyone older, or anyone who is tired of TV, should skip this tiresome view of stereotypical spoiled white teenagers and go see 20 Dates, which is infinitely funnier and also has a number in the title.
The publicity notes about Karen McCullah Lutz, half of the screenwriting team, say: "Karen lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband Walter, who is immensely relieved that people are willing to pay her."
"And thereby hangs a tale." (Act IV, Scene 2)