By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 10 Things I Hate About You on Blogcritics.
10 Things I Hate About You has been reissued on Blu-ray as a 10th Anniversary Edition. While it’s hard to believe a decade has passed, the movie is still fresh and entertaining. So many teen-oriented romantic comedies wind up dating very badly, but 10 Things manages to sidestep that curse largely due to the quality of ensemble cast. Screenwriting partners Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith deserve considerable credit as well for providing the actors with sharp dialogue.
The movie is no major artistic triumph by any means. But it is a funny reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of the Shrew, set in a modern-day high school. The eager to please cast, led by the late Heath Ledger, really puts the whole thing across. Ledger’s untimely passing casts a melancholic air over the proceedings that certainly wouldn’t have existed otherwise. It was apparent even then that the young Aussie actor was going to be a star. His natural charisma is unmistakable, lending a welcome spark of inspiration to the “tough guy with a heart of gold” routine.
Ledger plays Patrick Verona, the student everyone is afraid of due to all the rumors surrounding his past. Beneath the gruff exterior really he’s a sensitive guy that no one has taken the time to befriend. When the ultra-popular Joey (Andrew Keegan) sets his sights on Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), he pays Patrick to date her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles). The reason? Bianca’s father Walter (Larry Miller) won’t let her start dating unless Kat does first. Kat is more interested in academics than relationships, so Walter figures this is a perfect way to keep Bianca away from boys.
Patrick takes the money, but of course falls madly in love with Kat. It unfolds fairly predictably from that point, but the actors manage to keep things lively. Julia Stiles also launched her career with this movie, and she also does a great job of making her character distinctive. Late in the movie, Kat finally recites her list of ten things (as referred to in the title). What could have been cloying becomes unexpectedly heartfelt and moving. This is due entirely to Stiles’ delivery. She knows precisely the right moment to let her voice crack and her eyes to tear up, at last allowing the icy demeanor to melt.
Strong supporting turns abound as well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Cameron, the awkward new kid who finds himself competing with Joey for Bianca’s attention. Gordon-Levitt was actually the biggest star of the cast when the movie was first released, thanks to his role on 3rd Rock From the Sun. David Krumholtz is very funny as Michael, Cameron’s only friend who helps him in his quest to date Bianca.
As special editions go, 10 Things I Hate About You doesn’t get very impressive treatment. A commentary track featuring the writers and a few cast members is a breezy, relaxed listening experience. Fans will be pleased with the amount of trivia covered throughout. The “10 Years Later” featurette turns out to be kind of cheat seeing as much of the footage is taken from promotional interviews from the making of the film. Only a few participants have brand new contributions.
Most disappointingly, the deleted scenes – listed as a separate feature on the packaging – amount to a couple of brief clips included within the featurette. A sticker on the front of the case touts the inclusion of Heath Ledger’s screen test. The footage that does turn up, again as part of the featurette, is painfully brief. These would’ve been better off presented in their complete form.
The 1080p high definition transfer is probably as good a presentation of this modestly budgeted film as we’ll ever see. That’s not to say this Blu-ray offers an especially pretty picture. Colors are bold and realistic, but the whole things seems a bit excessively grainy. It’s most likely due to the original cinematography than any shortcomings in the transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off either, but it is serviceable. The dialogue comes across loud and clear. There is a lot of pop and rock music on the soundtrack, and it all seems well balanced in the mix.
10 Things I Hate About You has held up just fine over ten years. No one will use this Blu-ray as a demo disc to show off their system, but the movie never aspired to anything like that to begin with. As far as teen comedies are concerned, this one is well above average.