Cruel Intentions 2
Reviewed by Jason Coffman
Rating: 7.5 Beans
n the land of the late 90s teen movie, there was no other film like "Cruel Intentions." The film almost came across as more of a comic book than a drama, with impossibly devious characters played by some of the most popular young actors around. And they were all behaving very badly. Badly enough to secure the film an "R" rating, which should have killed it immediately at the box office. But its combination of slick looks-- courtesy some nice direction and cinematography-- and pitch-black humor drew in enough of the over-18 crowd (along with those sneaky kids) to cause someone, somewhere, to think a spinoff TV series would be a good idea.
"Cruel Intentions 2" is actually a straight-to-video version of the pilot episode of "Manchester Prep," the planned prequel series that follows the characters of Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil before the events in the first film. Spliced in with the pilot are scenes from the other two episodes of the series and some newly-scripted scenes to help pad things out and ensure that the video is rated "R." And it's every bit as bad as that sounds.
Perhaps the first clue that things are off is the fact that these people do not even closely resemble the actors that played the characters in the film-- Ryan Phillipe, curly blonde hair and all, played Sebastian Valmont in the film. His replacement? Robin Dunne, a slightly less svelte young man with dark hair who looks as much like Ryan Phillipe as he does me-- in other words, not at all. Sarah Michelle Gellar's Kathryn is portrayed by Amy Adams, whose other film credits include "Drop Dead Gorgeous." Interestingly, Gellar had dark hair in the film, while Adams' hair is extremely light blonde. And she seems alarmingly thin, as well, which is pointed out by a jolly reference to her character's eating disorder.
It's not hard to tell that this was made for television-- it really, really looks like it. Every scene has obviously been shot for a television screen's square aspect. Plus, there is very little profanity or nudity in the film, and what little there is was clearly edited in at a later date.
Due to this, the film often feels like it was written by about five different people who were not made aware of what the others were writing. In a series of two scenes, Sebastian goes from being a very nice young man to suddenly being extremely evil and swearing profusely. His girlfriend Danielle is his school headmaster's daughter and is very wholesome and nice, until suddenly she's practically raping Sebastian at Central Park in broad daylight.
The most telling aspect of this sloppy editing is the scene where Sebastian catches his father in a tryst with a young woman-- Sebastian puts his leather jacket on her and accidentally leaves it with her. We are then given a meaningful shot of her clutching the jacket and giving a sly look in the direction Sebastian left in, indicating that at some point she will likely return the jacket and in doing so cause mischief. However, after this scene she is never seen or even mentioned again, yet Sebastian has his leather jacket just a few scenes later. Oops.
The effect of having adult content in a movie that is, by and large, an episode of a television show, is jarring. After long stretches with no swearing, a barrage of profanity erupts. After what seems like half the movie with little more naughty content than school girl outfits, the movie drops two lesbians in a shower with Sebastian and later tosses in the Central Park scene with Sebastian and Danielle. The result is a movie that feels completely and utterly schizophrenic.
In all honesty, I did laugh quite a bit at "Cruel Intentions 2." Not where I was probably supposed to laugh, but the sheer ineptitude with which it was cobbled together is undoubtedly the most entertaining aspect of the movie. It's probably for the best that this didn't end up as a television series, as the basic idea of the plot would be pretty tough to shoehorn into too many episodes. Plus, this way the unfortunate idea is over with in about 80 minutes instead of a full season of full-length episodes. I guess we're lucky that way.
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