Color, 1999, 97 mins.

Written and Directed by Roger Kumble

Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Louise Fletcher, Joshua Jackson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eric Mabius, Tara Reid, Swoosie Kurtz, Christine Baranski / Produced by Neal H. Mortiz / Music by Edward Shearmur / Cinematography by Theo van de Sande

Format: DVD - Columbia (MSRP $29.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1 - 16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital 5.1

Campy, ludicrous, and unabashedly over the top, Cruel Intentions is either a dimwitted '90s defacing of a classic tale or a shrewdly conceived, bitchy twist on all the recent teen literary adaptations - or perhaps both. Regardless, this sinfully entertaining film is rarely dull and definitely takes the cake for the largest number of "I can't believe I just heard that" lines for the year.

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe, last seen together as obnoxious hook fodder in I Know What You Did Last Summer, reteam again as Kathryn Mertueil and Sebastian Valmont, diabolocial stepsiblings who derive pleasure from cruel sexual power plays in their upscale high school environment. Sebastain's next conquest in the making is virginal Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), whose recent Seventeen manifesto promoting chastity makes her a perfect target. Kathryn doubts Sebastian's confidence and makes a deal -- if he fails to bed Annette, he hands over his car to Kathryn; if he succeeds, Kathryn will fulfill all of his sexual desires.

Anyone familiar with the hit play Les Liaisons Dangereuses or its successful 1988 film adaptation with Glenn Close and John Malkovich will immediately recognize this scenario, which also spawned another version from Milos Forman (Valmont). However, Cruel Intentions most closely resembles the 1960 Roger Vadim version, which transposed the story into the modern setting of capricious Europeans on holiday and slathered the proceedings with layers of infectious jazz music. Here, first time director Kumble (who earned his chops doing theater) uses a blend of pop songs and Ed Shearmur's weird, wispy techno score (replacing John Ottman, which could have been interesting) to create an Upper East New York populated by rich, bored kids who have nothing better to do than screw with each other's heads. It's not a particularly daring concept, but the rude and often scathing sexual chitchat keeps things interesting, as well as the occasional odd surprise like Gellar, best known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, doing an impromptu open-mouthed liplock with TV princess Selma Blair. Most of the cast seems to be in the joke, with Witherspoon doing a nice job as always and Gellar camping it up with her heaving breasts and acidic bon mots. Unfortunately, Phillippe really isn't up to the task of playing Valmont; in fact, he rarely seems up to the task of acting at all and seems determined to become the Ryan O'Neal of the '90s. Not a great film by a long shot, but expect this one to show up on a lot of guilty pleasure lists in years to come.

Columbia's DVD trots out as many extras as you could imagine for this film, beginning with Kumble's feature length audio commentary (along with Jawbreaker, this could be the most overly serious commentary ever recorded for a nasty teen film). Six deleted scenes are the real highlight here, one of which (the "war" scene) absolutely should have been retained to clarify some major plot points (Kumble claims it was excised because it killed audience sympathy for Valmont - huh!?!). The first deleted scene, while extraneous, is a real howler and could have been the highlight of the movie. The package rounds out with two music videos, a studio-produced "Making of" featurette, and Creative Intentions, a look at the film's quasi-perfume commercial production design. The film itself looks terrific (it's Columbia, so would you expect otherwise?) and the Dolby Digital remix presents the soundtrack in all its Top 40 glory. A nice job all around.

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