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review added: 8/18/99



Cruel Intentions
Collector's Edition - 1999 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Cruel Intentions Film Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/A

Specs and Features

97 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with writer/director Roger Kumble, producer Neal Moritz, Edward Shearmur (music), Theo Van De Sande (Dir. of Photography), Jon Gary Steel (Production designer), Denise Wingate (Costumes), and Heather Zeegen (co-producer), theatrical trailer, 6 deleted scenes, documentary: Creative Intentions: Finding A Visual Style, 2 music videos: Every You, Every Me by Placebo and Coming Up From Behind by Marcy Playground, "making-of" featurette, cast and crew bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Close Captioned


When I first heard about this film, I turned my back on it. There was no way on God's green Earth that anyone was going to catch me in a theater paying money for this. I figured that hopefully there wouldn't be a special edition of this on DVD, and I wouldn't ever have to watch it, unless someone asks me about the quality of the disc. When I heard it WAS coming out as a special edition on DVD, I damned Columbia to hell. Now I would most definitely have to watch it. Well, I watched it - and guess what? I liked it. Granted, I liked it in the same way I like most other bad films - but I still liked it. I know I wouldn't have liked it in theaters, though. This is a film all about home video viewing.

Cruel Intentions is a remake of Dangerous Liaisons. It's actually an unashamed remake. It flits in and out of its source material, and it becomes really fun to watch what they changed to update it, and how they changed it. The principles are Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) and his stepsister Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar). The two of them are so bratty and beautiful, that their only joys in life are destroying other people. It's summer break, and their projects for the summer are two fold. Kathryn's plan is to destroy one young student Cecile Caldwell (Selma Blair), because she unwittingly stole her boyfriend. Sebastian's plan is to conquer Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), a virginal young woman who is coming to town with her father, the new dean of the school. Sebastian's goal is made even juicer by a little side wager with his sister. If he fails, Kathryn gets his cherry vintage Jaguar. If he succeeds, he gets to have sex with her. Now that's a bet that any self-respecting young man would be silly to turn down. The problem is, while courting the young Annette, he falls in love with her, and the bet is begins to mean less and less to him.

The fun of the film, as I said, is in the execution. Phillippe is doing a dead-on impersonation of John Malkovich. Compare this one to Dangerous Liaisons, and you will see what I mean - and it's not a bad thing. Gellar plays a character so against her Buffy type, that I still can't believe that was her. The whole "sitting on the lap" scene is enough to make anyone think, "I can't believe she did this movie." And again, that's not a bad thing. All of the supporting characters are very good as well. It's a very well-acted film, with some great one-liners. Even the look of the film is fun - very European, and yet modern America. You never forget you're in New York, even if the film wasn't entirely shot there. Cruel Intentions is just a huge hunk of cheese, that never forgets that it's cheese. It's like a drag show - very professional, but never more than what it's trying to be.

This special edition is really what made the film as fun for me. The transfer is really good. It's 16x9, and as crisp and clear as a summer's day. The flesh tones are strong, the blacks are deep, and the colors are very bright. All the lighting tricks in this film, come across very well on this disc. It's pretty much the perfect transfer for a DVD. The sound is also well done. It's Dolby Digital 5.1 and, even though there isn't that active a surround sound field, it's very nicely mixed.

But don't run out to pick up the disc just for that. Oh, no - the extras on this disc are where it's at. A commentary track featuring the principle crew is included. Most of those talking poke fun at director/writer Roger Kumble (who also makes fun of himself) for being a first timer, and not quite knowing what the hell he was doing. You did a fine job Roger, don't worry too much about it. It's not the best commentary I've ever heard - it gets too crowded at times. It would have been a much better track if it were narrowed down to just Kumble and his D.P., Theo Van De Sande. They say the most about the film, while everyone else just giggles or sounds nervous. A "making-of" fluff piece, and a full-on documentary are also included. Both are fun, but end up rehashing much of the commentary. There are also two music videos, cast and crew bios, a trailer, and 6 deleted scenes (which are introduced by Kumble, who explains why each was cut). The one negative here is that the back of the case states there are production notes - there aren't (unless they're talking about the liner notes on the insert inside the case).

Cruel Intentions is the perfect movie for video. It's cheese through and through. But the acting is good, the writing is good, so the movie isn't half-bad. I wouldn't say it's appropriate for kids under 18, but I'm afraid that is who's probably going to see (and ultimately enjoy) it. Give this movie a try on DVD. If you don't go in expecting anything more than Velveeta (this ain't no high-brow bree), you might find that the movie's actually pretty fun - kinda like a big ol' can of squeezy cheese.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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