The path to success as an actor is usually filled with roadblocks in the form of really, really shitty movies. Many great actors have early entries on their C.V.’s that they hope the world either forgets or, more likely, never finds out about to begin with. Fortunately, in the bright, shiny future of the Internet age we live in, these failures remain forever on the record to be mocked by schmucks who want to feel better about themselves. This sure-fire long-running feature, Inside the Skeleton’s Closet, will dig up the old shames of Hollywood’s best and brightest for review and drag them over the coals. Because I do not forgive, I do not forget and I do not have anything better to do with my time.
I’m guessing that if you’re Amy Adams, life seems pretty good. You’ve been nominated for an Academy Award three times, you’re happily married and with Man of Steel set to open very soon, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be able to make money angels in piles and piles of sweet Superman royalty money for the rest of your life. However that’s only how things appear on the surface. In reality, if you’re Amy Adams, you have a dark past that eats away at you, a terrible itching burn right beneath your skin that you can never scrub away and no amount of shiny, happy Muppet movies can exorcise the harrowing truth that your first starring role in a feature film was in direct-to-video Cruel Intentions 2.
In case you don’t remember the original Cruel Intentions, it was a surprise hit with a low budget back in the 1990’s. It starred Ryan Phillipe and Sarah Michelle Gellar as preppy step-siblings with an incesty vibe who entertained themselves and ruined others with their schemes. Their sexy schemes! It was part of a kind of trend in the 90’s of schlocky films with sexy schemes, like Basic Instinct and Wild Things and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, none of which have particularly aged well. Unfortunately they’re all like a glass of fine wine in comparison to Cruel Intentions 2’s bucket of antifreeze.
Apparently the film started out as a prospective television series whose episodes were edited together and when you’re watching it that is pretty obvious. There’s no real coherent plot, it’s just stuff happening for an hour and twenty minutes. It was supposed to air on the Fox network the same year that the original film came out, but it was cancelled before it ever aired, which is impressive even for Fox. Rupert Murdoch was supposedly outraged by one scene in particular (which I’ll get to later) and I can think of no more damning indictment of anything than it proving that Rupert Murdoch has standards. Cruel Intentions 2 acts as a prequel to the original, showing how Ryan Phillipe’s character Sebastian (now played by a mugging buffoon and professional rubbish sequel actor Robin Dunne) came to be the sexy schemer we don’t know or love. Poor Amy Adams replaces Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the evil step-sister Kathryn Merteuil.
D-Grade Ferris Bueller knock-off Sebastian is transferred to a fancy prep school in New York City, because he’s just too much of a charismatic wildcard for a normal school to handle. Because no one expects a cash-in to be creative, this prequel is basically just a remake of the first movie, where Sebastian has to choose between ridiculously angelic principal’s daughter Danielle and ridiculously evil step-sister Kathryn. Amy Adams plays the character less like Buffy’s cold and calculating take on the character and more like Libby from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a spoiled brat who wants to rid her school of ‘geeks and losers’ because that’s what popular people do, I guess. The battle of wits between Sebastian and Kathryn plays out more like a childish dispute over who gets the front seat, and it doesn’t help that there’s no chemistry to speak of between the actors. There’s so little sexual tension you’d need a diamond-tipped drill to cut it. There’s also a subplot (if you can call it that) where Kathryn tries to get revenge on new-girl Cherie. I’d tell you why she wants revenge but it’s pretty stupid. Just make up your own reasons. Involve tigers if you like.
I’ve tried to write a scene-by-scene breakdown of what happens in the movie but to be honest there’s not a lot going on. The scenes where Sebastian tries to woo virginal Danielle in particular are rough-going, they’re like the reheated leftovers of Dawson’s Creek. Sebastian knows that she’s a virgin, by the way, because he is told so by twins who visit him in the shower. Then they make out with each other, because this movie was made for teenage boys who didn’t have the internet yet. I know the intent here is to make me go all “be still my beating hand” but it’s just awkward and laughable instead of sexy.
That’s part of the problem with this film, when it’s not being a sub-standard teenage soap opera it’s being an obscure porn with the sex edited out. It’s tonally confusing and embarrassing to watch. I say obscure porn by the way, because I’m pretty sure you’d have to delve pretty deep into Red Tube to find a woman being brought to orgasm by a horse. This is the scene that horrified innocent Rupert Murdoch.
I don’t even know why I’m devoting my energy towards writing about why Cruel Intentions 2 is bad, that video speaks for itself. It’s not even the worst scene, I think that honour goes to the scene where the innocent Danielle appears to have some kind of hormonal breakdown and suddenly harasses Sebastian. I’ve included a video of that as well, because a) you need to see it believe how terrible the acting is and b) surely videos like these will ensure me more page views.
Adams’ big moment in the spotlight in terms of acting in this movie comes in a scene where she tearfully tells Sebastian that she doesn’t like her rich empty lifestyle and feels out of place. Storyline wise it’s pretty hard to buy that this heartless succubus of a character actually feels that way but Adams does a good job with a scene and it is a little glimpse into the fact that she’s the only actor in this dreck with any kind of a future ahead of her.
The movie feels extremely padded even though it’s less than 90 minutes long and I was grateful to reach the climax (there’s a free double entendre for you, Cruel Intentions screenplay writer) Sebastian runs through the cliché rain to tell Danielle that he loves her-but there’s a twist! A sexy twist, as it turns out Danielle is no virgin after all, and she was in fact working with Kathryn to manipulate our poor dope of a protagonist. Then, as I’m sure you’re shocked to learn, she and Amy Adams make out. Sebastian, apparently not at all upset at the rejection of his love, says “if you can’t beat them, join them” because teenage boys, etc., etc. and so he completes his start of darkness or whatever the point of this film was supposed to be.
I think it’s clear that I wouldn’t recommend Cruel Intentions 2. Not unless you’re a very lonely individual without an Internet connection, and even then it wouldn’t do that much for you. Thankfully for Adams her talent shone through and in the years since she’s rightly become very acclaimed and successful. Trying to put this nonsense behind her has to be a pretty strong motivator.
Extra Points and Quotes
· There’s this weird, childishly racist element to the movie. Gong noises are used to cue the appearance/mention of Asian characters more than once and there’s this gurning Indian servant character that’s quite confusing. I guess they just didn’t know any better in the distant past of 2000.
· The actor who plays Sebastian and Kathryn’s butler is named Clement von Franckenstein. Forget these losers, why can’t we have a movie all about him?
· As I said, the actor who plays Sebastian is a go-to guy for direct-to-video sequels, he’s also appeared in Species III, American Psycho II (also starring Mila Kunis, so stay tuned for that one), The Skulls II and Au Pair II, a resume that any actor can be ashamed of.
· On convincing the principal’s daughter to leave her cat at home and go see a James Van Der Beek film: “The school virgin's home alone with her pussy, and I'm taking her to see Dawson. God, I've become a total fag.”
· While kissing his step-sister: “You do realise you’re my step-sister?” Nothing gets past this lad.
Next Sunday it’s one of George Clooney’s earliest roles, in Return of the Killer Tomatoes! Be sure to mark that one down in your calendar.