10 Things I Hate About You: 10th Anniversary Edition (US - BD RA)
Gabe revisits the taming of Julia Stiles after ten years away on Blu-ray disc...
Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) arrives at Padua High School as a new student, and is given a tour of the social ladder by his new best friend Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz). Cameron unfortunately falls immediately head over heels for Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik), a social darling who isn’t allowed to date until her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does. The real problem is that Kat is entirely disinterested in dating, and is entirely too abrasive for any boy to pursue. Cameron and Michael take challenge, and hatch a plan to find a boy willing to seduce Kat. The plan leads them to Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger), a criminal misfit without much to lose, and a willingness to take money for the abuse.
Remember when Julia Stiles hit the mainstream with a series, or trilogy of Shakespeare adaptations? Who’d have thunk that 10 Things I Hate About You (based on ‘The Taming of the Shrew’), the first and most light hearted of the series would be the best? O ended up forgettable after Columbine High School related hold-backs, and Hamlet was possibly the worst film adaptation of the story ever, held only above water thanks to a few decent performances. Still, re-watching 10 Things I’m mostly surprised by how well the film stands up. It’s certainly dated, but in that enjoyable, time capsule sort of way, and I especially appreciate the well-earned PG-13 rating, and imagine it would actually struggle to secure the rating if it was released today, despite its clearly edited f-bomb. Modern equivalents usually take an easier road, utilizing either a gross-out hard R, or bland PG. That perfect balance of sexual innuendo that makes parents blush without storming out of the theatre is hard to find these days.
Funnily enough, 10 Things isn’t only the most entertaining of Stiles’ Shakespeare films, it’s also, in my opinion, the most endearing of the glut of teen comedies that broke out in the late 20th century, including American Pie, She’s All That and Can’t Hardly Wait (though I consider Clueless the best of the bunch). Perhaps the familiar source material makes the difference, but there’s certainly something especially charming about the little things, and the cast really made a difference. Besides Stiles, 10 Things is at least partially responsible for introducing television stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Andrew Keegan, Gabrielle Union to mainstream film audiences. And then there’s this guy named Heath Ledger, who’s apparently good at his job too. As was the norm for the era of safe for teens comedy, there’s quite a bit of fun going on in the backgrounds of any given shot, including lineless characters that are given little mini-arcs, like the chewing cowboy kids. This isn’t exactly important, but it adds real texture and life to the film, something missing from a lot of more recent high school flicks.
10 Things I Hate About You comes to Blu-ray, and the results are probably going to disappoint most fans. The transfer is definitely more colourful than the matching DVD anniversary edition that I took these images from, and the colour quality is richer, but that’s about your only real advantage. The details are average at best, and pretty inconsistent based on camera placement. Edge-enhancement is a major issue throughout, especially in more crowded compositions, though not to the degree of the recent Gladiator release. Grain is a little too thick for a ten year old film shot to look so clean and colourful, and there are some minor instances of artefacts of the print damage variety. The depths of the blacks is impressive, but occasionally the extreme nature of some of the contrast is disconcerting, especially with the darker skin tones. The head room looks a little tight, but apparently 1.85:1 is the appropriate framing, so there you go.
On the other hand, DVD fans might want to look into the new release. I don’t have the old copy to compare directly, but apparently it was non-anamorphic release, and this 10th Anniversary DVD is certainly anamorphically enhanced (the caps on this page are taken from that disc). Actually, it looks pretty much the same as the Blu-ray, so you probably won’t be disappointed.
10 Things I Hate About You isn’t made for super exciting 5.1 tracks, but this new, lossless DTS-HD track does its best to make itself worth your dollar. The rear channels are occasionally busy with bits of school business, or chirping birds, but effects work is largely incidental, and cut down in favour of dialogue and music. The dialogue track is centred and clear enough to catch all the inconsistencies in Ledger’s accent. The score is perfectly ’99. Those that lived through the era will remember that the ska rebirth thing was coming to an end, and the next round of power-pop was coming. Sometimes dating your film musically can be a problem, but in the case of teen movies it’s a virtue. And it’s always fun to re-experience Letters to Cleo. The music is a largely frontal affair, but there are some decent stereo effects, and the LFE presence is a plus.
I see that the original DVD release has nothing of note on it, so video quality be damned if you’re really a fan of the film. Things begin with a new audio commentary with writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and cast members Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, Larisa Oleynik and Susan May Pra. As a retrospective track, and one from the point of view of writers and actors, this track is relatively solid, warm, and fun. There isn’t a lot of technical information, but there are dozens of adorable behind the scenes anecdotes, and the track effectively creates the illusion of watching the film with friends. There is no real frontrunner for the track’s controlling presence, and silent space is definitely at a premium. The only other notable extra is ’10 Things I Love About 10 Things I Hate About You’ (35:00, HD), a retrospective featurette about the film set to interviews with the guilty parties. The whole thing is augmented with some behind the scenes footage that includes deleted scenes and bloopers, some original EPK release interviews, and shots of the original script.
The 10 Things I Hate About You 10th Anniversary release is certainly an improvement over the original extra-less, non-anamorphic DVD, but the Blu-ray image quality is kind of a bummer, and the new extras aren’t going to knock your socks off. The movie is still surprisingly funny and sweet, and the matching DVD release is probably worth the scratch for fans simply because of the anamorphic enhancement, and presence of at least some extras, but Blu-ray buyers will probably be left disappointed.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 5th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Cast and Writer Commentary, 10 Things I Love About 10 Things I Hate About You, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gil Junger
Cast: Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, David Krumholtz, Larry Miller
Length: 97 minutes
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