10 Things I Hate About You takes its cues from "The Taming of the Shrew", and if you say the title of the flick really, really quickly, it even kind of sounds the same. Try it! I'll even wait for you to finish. This is me waiting. Okay, with that out the way, 10 Things... opens with perennial new kid Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) mooning over the most deliriously gorgeous girl in school: Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik). Bianca doesn't exactly come across as the sharpest crayon in the box, vapidly rambling on about stuff like how she likes her Sketchers but lo-o-o-o-oves her Prada backpack, but Cameron thinks there's something more substantial lurking underneath all that froth and frosting. 'Course, he'll have a tough time finding out. For one, there's Joey (Andrew Keegan) -- the resident Bee-Emm-Oh-See -- an overfunded, double-digit IQ male model who's been sniffing around Bianca for a while now. There's also the whole thing about the Stratford sisters' hyper-uptight pop (Larry Miller), an obstetrician who's up to his elbows in placentas all day as he helps teenaged pregnant moms squirt out their mistakes. Not so keen on his daughters winding up spreadeagle on his operating table, Poppa Stratford lays down the law: no dating till after graduation. After some begging and pleading, he does back off a bit. Bianca can date, sure...as long as her sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is hanging off some guy's arm too.
So, no problem, right? I mean, Cameron still has to weave his way around Joey and all, but how tough can it be to line up a date for a skinny blonde high schooler like Kat? Well, it'd be a pretty short flick if the answer were something like "not very". See, Kat's the shrew. Barely-pubescent boys aren't her thing so much: chili fries, whatever's at the top of the Billboard charts that week, a crappy movie, and some kid awkwardly trying to cop a feel...? Nah. She'd just as soon curl up with Sylvia Plath, blast a riot-grrrl CD, and keep her fingers crossed for that acceptance letter from Sarah Lawrence. She doesn't like you and doesn't miss a beat to let you know it. Her interest in dating is absolutely nil, and...well, dating kinda feels the same way about her.
I've always had a soft spot for that glut of teen comedies from the tailend of the '90s: Get Over It!, She's All That, Can't Hardly Wait, Whatever It Takes, Drive Me Crazy, and, like, eighteen other flicks with generic, three word titles. 10 Things I Hate About You has always been my favorite of that bunch, and it's one of the few I proudly love rather than chalking it up as a guilty pleasure. Even just over a decade after it dashed in and out of theaters, 10 Things I Hate About You still holds up impressively well. Okay, sure, sure, the core of the story is pretty standard issue, but it's everything the movie sketches in the margins that makes it so much fun. I mean, some of the first words in the entire flick are a guidance counseler -- played by Allison Janney, even! -- writing a trashy romance novel about the "throbbing member" of some musclebound guy who may or may not be a pirate. Poppa Stratford won't let Bianca trot out on a date without trying on a rubbery preggers suit. A hefty chunk of the dialogue is sparklingly witty, and 10 Things... frequently doesn't seem as if it's talking down to fifteen year olds either. I mean, lines like "you're 18; you don't know what you want...and you won't know what you want 'til you're 45, and even if you get it, you'll be too old to use it" are definitely in a different class than something yanked out of the She's All That playbook, and 10 Things... has one of the more compelling stack of adults out of all these movies. The screenplay is really tight, and I'm impressed by how quickly it screams along. Sometimes plot points seem a little rushed -- characters definitely leap to conclusions faster than they probably ought to, and a couple of supporting players like
10 Things I Hate About You also piles together a really great cast. Larisa Oleynik is just about the most endlessly adorable girl the world over, and I like how the movie doesn't overplay Bianca hiding how sharp she really is. They don't pull out anything ridiculous like her turning out to be a master artist, an impossibly brilliant mind, or anything; Bianca's just a normal, bright girl rolling along in the part she thinks she's supposed to play. She's done some not-particularly-nice things as the reigning It Girl and is stuck having to deal with it. I've liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Krumholtz in pretty much everything I've ever seen 'em in, and Andrew Keegan makes for one of the better Teen Movie Sleazy Bad Guys I've ever come across. Julia Stiles is a remarkably accomplished actress even in this very early stage in her career, and her emotional reading of the titular "10 Things..." list packs a surprising wallop. The mix of comedy with just a little bit of drama is extremely effective in the last act of 10 Things I Hate About You, both with that sonnet of Kat's along with some fatherly confessions by Larry Miller. 10 Things... also marks the arrival of Heath Ledger onto these shores. He's definitely a charmer as the bad-boy-turned-good lead, and the movie wouldn't be nearly as compelling as it is if not for the gleaming spark between Ledger and Stiles.
10 things I love about 10 Things I Hate About You...? Its effervescent wit. A really great cast. Characters with more dimension and personality than the usual paint-by-numbers teen movie crowd. I really dig the soundtrack. A clever mix of comedy and a smidgen of drama. A parade of adults who are even more off-beat than the gaggle of kids around 'em. Larisa Oleynik is so indescribably cute that she deserves her own bullet point. A breezy pace that never drags or meanders. Even with just over ten years in the rear view mirror, it still holds up really well. Am I at ten yet? I'm too lazy to count. Anyway, I'll 'fess up to being a teen movie connoisseur, and seeing as how 10 Things I Hate About You has always been by far my favorite of that bunch, it's kind of a thrill to have this tenth anniversary edition on a shiny new Blu-ray disc. I'd have slapped it with an even more giddily enthused recommendation if this disc had won me over as much as the movie has over the years, and I'll tear into all that in a bit. The short answer, though...? Recommended.
"I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"
Yeah, I guess "whelmed" sums it up well enough since 10 Things I Hate About You really doesn't look all that great in high-def. I wonder if Disney dusted off an older HD master for this Blu-ray disc rather than giving the movie a fresh pass through the telecine bay. The image is pretty soft, and although there's a decent sense of texture when the camera's closed in fairly tightly, clarity and detail never really impress. The usual atmospheric stuff like grassy lawns look kind of mushed together. The grain structure tends to be indistinct from a normal viewing distance, and...well, it just looks dated. At its worst -- the opening and closing titles; the paintball and paddling sequences as Kat and Pat fall for each other -- 10 Things... is soft and muddy, and its best moments don't rank much higher than "oh, that looks pretty good, I guess". It doesn't look shamefully bad, but the smart money says you won't be scraping your jaw off the floor or anything either. On the upside, 10 Things... has enough room to stretch that no hiccups in the compression ever sneak in, and there are only a few tiny flecks of dust that creep up.
10 Things I Hate About You is lightly letterboxed to preserve that theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and its AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.
10 Things I Hate About You also sports Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish along with a stereo track in, um, some language I couldn't actually decipher. Subtitles are served up in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and four streams with symbols I'm too culturally limited to identify, I guess.
The Final Word
I hafta admit to feeling a little letdown by this Blu-ray disc, but for longtime fans of 10 Things I Hate About You, it's still an easy recommendation. This has always been my favorite from that glut of teen flicks from the late '90s, and thanks to some sharp writing and a terrific cast, 10 Things... still holds up ridiculously well more than a full decade later. A slicker transfer and maybe cramming more of the cast in the retrospectives would've scored a more enthused nod, but 10 Things I Hate About You is a movie that's definitely worth rediscovering on Blu-ray. Recommended.
No, Really, These Are Just Leftover Screengrabs; It's Not an Excuse to Keep Posting Pictures of Larisa Oleynik