This film falls under the guilty pleasure category, because it's funny and charming and the actors sell the material, which is based on Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW. The other selling point of the film is the breakthrough performances by young stars Julia Stiles (SAVE THE LAST DANCE) as Kat and Heather Ledger (FOUR FEATHERS) as Pat.
First thing that could have been a major problem was that Pat and Kat's relationship is based on a bride. I hate romantic comedies based on deceptions. However, Ledger captures the viewer and we are left feeling that the bribe just serves as a device to bring the two characters to meet rather than something that really affects their budding relationship. Though we get the big "girl runs away in horror after discovering the deception" bit, Stiles plays it well and we do get a nice believable make-up scene at the end. Plus, the premise of the bribe, which is that rich jerk Joey (Andrew Keegan, O) wants to date Kat's younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik, TV's THE SECRET WORLD OF ALEX MACK), but can only do so if Kat dates, and what transpires afterwards, do not leave Pat looking malicious.
Okay, now that I've explained why "the bribe" didn't ruin this film I can move onto the elements that I liked. Some of the dialogue is pretty witty and director Gil Junger (a lot of TV series including DHARMA & GREG, ELLEN) does an apt job of balancing the film's high and low moments much like the film's inspiration did. I also appreciated the wide range of characters who didn't all fall into typical teen stereotypes. However, Joey and some of the other villains are pretty one dimensional, but I think that was the point. They're shallowness was their undoing. Moreover, Larry Miller (BEST IN SHOW) does an impressive job of taking an over-the-top protective father role and playing it with just the right degree of wry sarcasm to make it believable. Other important characters include: Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, TV's 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN), the nice boy who wants to date Bianca; Michael (David Krumholtz, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS), the nerd who strives to be more popular; and Mr. Morgan (Daryl Mitchell, INSIDE MAN), the English teacher who tells his students exactly how it is and doesn't take any of their crap.
Overall, it’s a solid teen comedy that doesn't pander to the lowest common dominator. Witty dialogue and good performances in general from its young cast raise this material way above the common teen flick. As it comes to contemporized versions of classic literature, this one ranks up there with CLUELESS as one of the best out there.
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