By now considered one of the great classic teen movies of the 90s, 10 Things I Hate About You celebrates its ten year anniversary with an all-new DVD and first-time-ever Blu-ray release to ring in the new year. Although the majority of this edition is being promoted as a film that Heath Ledger was in and little else, the new edition boasts a full retrospective with the writers and director of the film. And for those that pick up the film on Blu-ray you’ll get to see it in full 1080p glory, although many will question how important that is…until they see just how great this transfer looks, at least.
Padua High sophomore Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik) has two invitations to the prom and one big problem: her father (Larry Miller) won’t let her go unless her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) agrees to attend as well. It looks like both girls are staying home, since independent and unconventional Kat has no interest in going—until she meets the school’s mysterious new bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). What she doesn’t know is that her sister’s suitors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Andrew Keegan) have ponied up $300 to convince Patrick to woo her. Just as Patrick realizes he has unexpectedly fallen for his “assignment,” Kat finds out about the scheme and Patrick has to launch an all out campaign to win her back. Inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” 10 Things I Hate About You takes a witty and contemporary look at the eternal battle between the sexes, high-school style.
It’s no real surprise that almost the entire cast of this film went onto bigger and better things after this film. This film really is the type that sticks with you, not so much because of the subject material or anything but just because of how smartly written it is. The high school students here are presented as nothing more than mini-adults; in fact, after watching the extras on the set it’s clear that the director really didn’t want this to be a high school film, just a film that happened to revolve around kids in a high school. It doesn’t talk down or use cliché dialogue, which allows the film to feel rather ageless (although the cars and clothes are all becoming dated now, of course). It falls into the same vein as Can’t Hardly Wait, although this one has a definite edge in terms of maturity level.
I think what makes this film stay with you is that it never really tries to be anything more than what it is. It doesn’t go for gross out humor, it doesn’t attempt to put the characters in wholly unreal situations. The most outrageous thing that goes on is Ledger’s rather spontaneous burst into song, but it’s such an enjoyable moment that you can’t even fault the film for that. It’s because of this grounding in reality, for the most part, that this film simply just feels…well, real. There are moments of dialogue that could be considered a bit risqué for teenagers, but to be honest they all talk like this (and nowadays much worse than this) and despite the writers astonishment that this film didn’t get an R rating back when it came out, I really don’t feel that the film really went all that far past the PG-13 it has now. Sure there is teen drinking and smoking, but…again, these aren’t really “shocking” things to see teens do, even in the 90s. It helps that the majority of the cast are all good people, with the only real “sleazeball” of the bunch being so apparent in his motivations that you zero in on him as the bad guy. Even if he did give David Krumholtz one of the funniest visual moments and lines of the film.
There’s a lot in this film to take in and enjoy, but it’s the heartfelt scenes that really stick with you for the long run. Ledger and Stile’s courtship feels real and although Levitt and Oleynik are rarely on screen together, you pull for them to get together in the end as well. It’s overly simple in construction to be sure, but at the same time it’s just smartly written and reminds you that teen movies don’t have to be all like American Pie (which, admittedly, the first entries in the series were good…before it devolved into the joke that it is now).
Overall a Recommended movie. It won’t blow you away with its complexities, because it has none, but it will entertain you pretty flawlessly. Akin to a John Hughes production, I’d say.
Disney has released this film in little more than a Heath Ledger Edition, but it’s not like you can really fault them….although you have to wonder why they didn’t show Levitt a little love, as his career seems to be quickly ballooning into something akin to what Ledger’s own career was. In any case the set arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with the usual insert advertising the Blu-ray format. An embossed/foil-reflective slipcase is given as well, but it’s rather unassuming in its appearance and doesn’t stand out a whole lot.
Video is a remarkably solid presentation. I know I trumped it up in the intro as something great and…well, it is. For a ten year old movie. The transfer is full of grain but its better that they left it in than took it out, as the transfer looks amazingly good given its age. There is plenty of detail and with it boasting a 1.85:1 ratio it takes up nearly the entire screen of your 16×9 set (and seeing as I just got a new 52” set and this was the first movie I watched to review on it, I have to say I was really quite blown away) and fills it with really solid imagery. Colors are a tiny bit washed out but everything about this transfer truly does look great. It won’t blow you away with the shininess that new films boast, but the film quality still manages to make for an impressive transfer nonetheless.
Audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix and…well, it’s slightly underwhelming. But this is a romantic comedy so what can you really expect from this one? I will say that I found the levels to be rather uneven, as it would frequently go from loud sound effects/music to dialogue that was very quiet. It’s not too terrible, but if you’re trying to watch this in a house full of other people who are sleeping, it can be quiet the challenge to keep the mix under control.
Extras, for a 10th anniversary edition, are sadly pretty lacking. Included:
10 Years Later (35:05, 1080i)
Audio Commentary with Co-Writers Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith and actors Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, Larisa Oleynik & Susan May Pratt
Yup…that’s it. Though the packaging mentions “Deleted Scenes” and “Never Before Seen Heath Ledger Screen Test Footage,” they’re actually all integrated into the “10 Years Later” featurette. This piece has new interviews with director Junger and writers Smith and Lutz, but everything else is old style footage. Including some horrendous looking deleted scenes that appear to have been copied off of VHS tapes or something and some grainy rehearsal footage into the featurette was a rather stupid movie, as you have to zip through the entire featurette just to find the material advertised on the set. The included commentary is a nice surprise as well, as I thought initially it was a repeat from the previous DVD release…but it is, in-fact, newly recorded. It sucks that Levitt nor Stiles could participate, but it’s still a solid listen nonetheless. Except for that odd drop-off in conversation where it sounds like something was cut out (I notice that more and more lately in commentaries).
Overall a decent disc and worth upgrading from the previous barebones DVD release for. Recommended.
10 Things I Hate About You: 10th Anniversary Edition arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 5th.