Cruel Intentions 2 (2001)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

The Lonely Lady

Heavenly Creatures

Rebel Without a Cause

Switchblade Sisters

Devil in the Flesh

Cruel Intentions 2

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

"Dear Mom: Learning a lot at
boarding school. First Heimlich maneuever,
now mouth-to-mouth!"
Cruel Intentions 2 took a long and tortuous path to home video shelves, but that didn't stop it from being an utter piece of crap. As aficianados of Hollywood's less savory fare, we shudder to think how close we came to missing out on this film entirely.

Cruel Intentions, of course, was the trashy prep school tale based on Dangerous Liaisons. It starred up-and-coming stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!), Reese Witherspoon, and Ryan Philipe. The film was mostly noteworthy for those stars, and a couple of leeringly erotic scenes, like the one in which Gellar kisses another girl.

Perhaps inspired by the successful translation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from big to small screen, someone thought that Cruel Intentions would make a good TV series. The resulting project, entitled Manchester Prep, was intended to air on the Fox network, but despite airing some perfunctory publicity for it, Fox decided to withdraw the show because of problems with its quality.

"Look, you're my agent. You got me
into this, you can get me out!"
Let us repeat that, because it bears repeating. Fox decided that Manchester Prep wasn't good enough for their network. This is the same network that has inflicted Cops, When Pets Go Bad, and The Family Guy on America.

The whole concept behind this proposed series, which was to be a prequel to the movie, seems flawed to us. In Manchester Prep, Sebastian and Kathryn are supposed to be sophomores. In Cruel Intentions, the two are seniors. So even if Manchester Prep had been made a regular series, logically it would have been restricted to telling stories from a mere two years of these characters' lives. As it turned out, it didn't really matter.

After the quality-conscious people at Fox deemed the pilot unwatchable, Columbia TriStar retooled the pilot into a straight-to-video movie. That a majority of the pilot remains intact is obvious. It's equally obvious where the new material has been added. It's kind of like the Twin Peaks pilot that was released theatrically in other countries -- a new ending was shot to create a sense of closure.

Test audiences did not respond to
Manchester Prep in the way Fox had hoped.
Sebastian Valmont (played by Phillipe in the movie, Robin Dunne here) leaves Illinois (?) to live with his father in New York City. His father has married into a super-rich family headed by Tiffany de Merteuil (Mimi Rogers), so Sebastian has a new school (Manchester Prep) and a new stepsister (Kathryn, played by Gellar in the movie, Amy Adams here).

Right off the bat the movie is an illogical mess. Sebastian seems to leave his old school at the end of the year (he somehow managed to print a nude picture of the principal's wife in the school yearbook), but after a cab ride to the airport and a plane ride to New York City, he arrives one day before the beginning of the new school year. Did the cab ride to the airport take three months? Sure, his cabby was a babe (on what planet does this movie take place?), but even a woman driver can probably find the airport in less than three months.

Sebastian and Kathryn take to each other like dogs and cats. Sebastian is better than Kathryn at nearly everything (except Sarah Michelle Gellar impersonation), but that isn't the end of the humiliations piled on the girl. The next day as Kathryn gives the orientation address to open the school year (she's president of the student body, of course), a girl named Cherie begins to choke on a piece of bubble gum. Cherie is saved by a quick application of the heimlich maneuver. Now, where do you think the gum ends up? Hint -- it's somewhere funny! C'mon, guess.

Mimi Rogers displays her version
of "compassionate conservatism."
If you guessed "Kathryn's hair," you can probably write a movie as good as this one.

Kathryn is also the head of the Manchester Tribunal, a secret society of popular kids who decide what to do with the rest of the student populace. Those kids who spend their high-school years on the outside of the in-crowd probably suspect that something like this is going on, but the truth is even more disheartening. Teenagers are too selfish to bother with organized cruelty; like tornadoes, they pick their targets at random and without warning. It may make for a few good screen moments as the beautiful people cackle like Machiavelli, but the Tribunal is one of many subplots that never go anywhere because they were meant for later development in the TV series. Other non-starters include the "Sebastian's mother in rehab" plot and "Sebastian's father's naïve mistress plot."

"Dey pay me rots of money to pray
stupid Asian steleotype! I do it!"
For his part, Sebastian falls for Annette... er, Danielle (Sarah Thompson). You'll have to excuse our confusion, as the character's name was changed after the initial production and the name "Danielle" was dubbed in wherever necessary. For the most part, the film is edited to cover the change; we often see Danielle squirm at the moment her name is spoken, as if she is uncomfortable just hearing it. Other dialogue monkeying was performed in the editing room to add swear words, presumably to give the film a bit more "grit."

From this rich set-up the plot blooms. Sebastian tries to woo the chaste Danielle (who also happens to be the headmaster's daughter), while Kathryn tries to corrupt the gum-spitting virgin Cherie. Kathryn also begins attacking Sebastian with truly insidious schemes, the first of which is the NAKED LESBIAN TWIN SHOWER SCENE. Hopefully this doesn't require an explanation. Sebastian takes a shower, and Kathryn sends NAKED LESBIAN TWINS to share the shower with him. As punishments go, it's right up there with the Spanish Inquisition's comfy chair. Are NAKED LESBIAN TWINS a male chauvinist fantasy? Hell yes! Did we love it? We're pretty sure the "woman driver" joke we made five paragraphs back should serve as our male chauvinist credentials.

So, the NAKED LESBIAN TWIN SHOWER SCENE. How is it important? Well, there was probably dialogue. We don't remember any... but because we love our readers so much, we will revisit the NAKED LESBIAN TWIN SHOWER SCENE for the dialogue:

Obviously, this scene was added for the movie version, because Fox would never show NAKED LESBIAN TWINS on camera. For this reason, they will remain the fourth rated network. But the NAKED LESBIAN TWINS do deliver some important exposition. For instance, they tell us that "Manchester Prep's a virtual whorehouse," even though we see precious little evidence to back this statement up. But who are we to disbelieve NAKED LESBIAN TWINS?

Right before this greatest of all scenes, the movie has our favorite dialogue bit. The Cambodian maid drops a platter and begins screaming hysterically. Sebastian comments, "Christ, it's like a f***in' Godzilla movie." Huh.

That's not like any Godzilla movie we've seen. In any case, all of the dialogue in Cruel Intentions 2 is that bad. The horrible acting just makes things worse. We tried to make the movie better by imagining Christopher Masterson (Francis from Malcolm in the Middle) as Sebastian. He might have been able to sell some of these lines. Amy Adams, however, is irredeemable as a faux Sarah Michele Gellar.

After breaking up with Lois Lane,
Superman decides to live
the American male dream.
The most bizarre trait of Cruel Intentions 2 is the use of offensive stereotypes throughout the film. Kathryn is the spoiled rich girl from every awful 80's comedy. The de Merteuil mansion has a full compliment of embarrassingly out-of-date ethnic servants. The Asian maid goes into hysterical fits. The British butler is fatherly. The German chef kills squawking chickens with a cleaver within earshot of the dining room. And the footman is a slovenly Indian. What is this, a WWII-era Charlie Chan film?

To give the movie version some kind of closure the original episodes didn't have, the movie pulls out a "twist" ending. After falling in love with Danielle and renouncing his sexual predator ways, Sebastian finds out that it's all a set-up. Danielle is actually a slutty friend of Kathryn's pretending to be wholesome. This drives Sebastian into becoming the manipulative bastard we see in Cruel Intentions. There is some evidence that this coda was written and shot quickly, because the dialogue doesn't quite make sense:

You already know where this is going.
Danielle (after sticking her tongue down Kathryn's throat): Don't tell me you bought that virgin bulls***.

Sebastian: No, I... I... I saw you, you were with your dad!

Wha...? Does Sebastian think there is a teenaged girl who doesn't act like a virgin in front of her father? That hardly seems like the reaction of such a cynical and manipulative person. And what could Kathryn's motivation possibly be for arranging such a scenario? The final scene depicts Cherie's seduction by Sebastian in the back of a limo as Kathryn and Danielle smile lasciviously from the front seat.

So the movie ends as it began, confusing and more than a little annoying. If the series wasn't good enough for TV, it's tough to imagine how the producers thought that adding a NAKED LESBIAN TWIN SHOWER SCENE would make two pilot episodes into a compelling movie.

On the other hand, we encourage any other producers of bad TV pilots to try adding NAKED LESBIAN TWIN SHOWER SCENES to their movies. We'll watch them all, just in case one of them gets lucky.

Review date: 05/09/2001

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