Diss Me Kate

Teen Taming of the Shrew isn't quite as you'd like it

The best performance, however, is by Allison Janney as Ms. Perky, a guidance counselor who dispenses chipper, perfunctory advice as quickly as she can, so that she can get back to work on her torrid romance novel. 10 Things I Hate About You could use a lot more of Ms. Perky--there's no equivalent to her in Taming, but in terms of comic scale, she's the most Shakespearean character in the film.

Ms. Perky's disappearance after a half-hour is symptomatic of the movie's timidity. Lutz, Smith and director Gil Junger keep establishing characters and gags that have no real payoff (the film may have been heavily edited). At the beginning, for instance, Krumholtz takes Levitt, who's a new kid, on a sociological tour of the school's various cliques, just like similar scenes in Clueless and Disturbing Behavior, among other films. It's becoming an obligatory element in teen comedy. But here, the interaction of those cliques has no major significance in the story. We're set up to expect a meatier film than we get.

To be sure, there are far less agreeable 90-minute stretches to be had at the multiplexes currently than 10 Things. Junger, whose feature debut this is--he's best known for the famous "coming out" episode of TV's Ellen--uses the Pacific Northwest locations well, and passages of the bantering dialogue are hilariously sharp. During these scenes, Junger is able to get good work from most of his attractive cast. 10 Things is much more enjoyable than, say, She's All That, but that's the sort of faint praise it will have to settle for. It raises an intriguing premise, but in the end, it's closer to She's All That than to Shakespeare.

10 Things I Hate About You
Directed by Gil Junger; with Julia Stiles, Allison Janney and David Krumholtz.

Rated

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