Why “10 Things I Hate About You” Is Still the Best Rom-Com

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It’s been nearly two decades since “10 Things I Hate About You” was released on the big screen, but it’s still the best-ever romantic comedy after all this time. The film combines a great cast, a spirited musical soundtrack and a timeless story of unrequited love of literally Shakespearean dimensions (the film itself was a modernized production of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”).

Let’s take a closer look at what has made the film such a timeless rom-com hit…

#1: The amazing ensemble cast

Looking back at those glorious days at the end of the twentieth century, it may not have been obvious, but we were having a good look in this film at some of the most famous actors of a generation: Heath Ledger (as Patrick Verona), Julia Stiles (as Kat Stratford), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as Cameron James) and Larisa Oleynik (as Bianca Stratford). Heath Ledger grew up to become a cult Hollywood hero before his untimely death, Julia Stiles has been delighting us in all the recent Jason Bourne movies, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been in films like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight.”

Is it possible to think of two people we’d rather fall in love with than Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles? Despite being the unpopular outsiders in the film, they were ultimately the type of people we’d fall in love with if we could back in high school.

#2: The story of teenage angst and high school rebellion

The core of any great teen movie is rebellion against the system. In this case, we have the rebellious characters of Kat (who seems to hate all boys and isn’t adapting well to teenage life) and Patrick (who’s the classic “bad boy”). We also have the rebellious character of Bianca, who desperately wants to date boys, but can’t because her father (played by Larry Miller) has set a family rule that she can’t date until her older sister has a suitor. On top of that, you have all the classic elements of teenage angst. This show was set in a high school, of course, and so you have all the hidden cliques and social games that go on with young adolescents.

#3: The elements of classic Shakespeare

There are so many subtle nods to Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Let’s start with the names of the characters – there’s Patrick Verona (a nod to the Italian town of Verona, where the play takes place); the Stratford family name (a nod to Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-on-Avon) and the name of the high school – Padua High School (a nod to the Italian town of Padua). The characters of Kat (Shakespeare’s “Katherina”) and Bianca are directly named for characters from the play.

There’s also a classic line from the film – “I burn, I pine, I perish” – that’s a direct quote from Shakespeare’s classic play. In “10 Things I Hate About You,” it’s the line spoken by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, as he alludes to the deeply burning love that’s consuming him.

Finally, there’s the name of the movie itself – it’s essentially a parody of the famous sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (You can think of the parody as “How do I loathe thee?”) In the movie, it’s a line adapted by Julia Stiles, who’s reciting a poem that she’s made about Heath Ledger. She ends up breaking into tears as she reads the poem: “But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”

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#4: The great soundtrack

It’s impossible to think about the film without thinking about the final scene of the movie, where the band is playing Cheap Trick’s classic song, “I Want You to Want Me” on the roof of the school. And it wasn’t just that one song – there’s also the great Nick Lowe song “Cruel To Be Kind.” Both songs are crucial to driving forward the narrative of the story, and both are so great because they feel like they’ve been crafted specifically for this one romantic comedy. Back in 1999, reviewers specifically pointed out the soundtrack to the film, with many songs performed by Letters to Cleo. This is just great music for a rom-com.

#5: Classic teen fare that’s pure of heart

“10 Things I Hate About You” was light teen fare that, 17 years later, is fun to watch for adults. It’s not the sickly sweet romantic comedy we see in cinemas today, and it’s not the teen gross-out movie that we’ve come to expect. It featured great acting and makes us nostalgic for the 1990s.

This film still feels like it’s safe enough to take your teens to without cringing in your seat. Remember Larry Miller, who played the father of Kat and Bianca? He had some of the best lines of movie. (Except, of course, for perhaps the best line ever – “Kat. Meow.”)

#6: Unrequited love in all its forms

But mostly, the real reason why “10 Things I Hate About You” is such a great romantic comedy is because it’s all about the story of unrequited love. Actually, it’s two stories of unrequited love – there’s the story of Patrick and Kat, and there’s also the story of Bianca and Cameron. We can’t wait to see how Patrick will win over Kat, and how Cameron will use every trick in the book to woo Bianca. It’s never straightforward, but always fun, even when we know the ending.

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For all these reasons, it’s clear that “10 Things I Hate About You” is still the best rom-com. It was romantic and funny before we even thought of combining the two of them into a single category. It’s a modernized Shakespeare production that made us feel grown up and smart for loving “The Taming of the Shrew,” but not so bookish that we couldn’t wait to see the teenage couples make out behind the school. And the stellar music soundtrack is just the best way of enjoying a romantic comedy  – the songs are from the heart, pure and fun, and not at all contrived. There’s nothing to hate about this film, and everything to love.

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Is “A Dog’s Purpose” Worth the Watch?

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If you love wonderful scenes of cute dogs doing heroic deeds and playing with boys and girls, you’ll love “A Dog’s Purpose,’ the new film by director Lasse Hallstrom. The film will warm your heart and may even convince you to go out and buy a dog (if you don’t already have one). Yes, the film goes a bit too far with all the sentimentality. And, yes, as a piece of cinematic fare, you can do better. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Let’s start off with the storyline of “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron. It’s the story of a devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who discovers the meaning of its own existence – to make humans happy – after living, dying and then being reincarnated as another canine. And so the cycle continues over the course of five decades. Each time, the dog comes back as a different breed, and sometimes even a new gender. But each time, there is one constant: the dog is just so lovable and cute.

This is where the film starts to veer off course with all kinds of dog clichés. You see, the problem is that we’re given a deliriously stereotypical view of the world, in which dogs do everything they’re supposed to do – they play games with kids, they fetch items for you, and they comfort you when you’re feeling blue. And then, they do all the super-hero feats that have been ascribed to them for centuries – in this film, the dog rescues a child from a raging river and tries to save people from a burning home. It’s completely acceptable for one or two dog clichés to make their way into a film. But when you’re presented story after story, and the clichés just won’t go away, that’s when you literally start to cringe in your movie seat.

At times, it seems like the key goal of the film is to help you dredge up your sentimental childhood memories. The filmmaker, Lasse Hallstrom, knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and that’s why the film can be so difficult to watch at times – you know what’s going to happen next, and yet, you’re powerless to stop it. You feel the tears welling up in your eyes, and you want to hold them back, but you won’t be able to stop. You just want that dog to do the right thing every time.

The main story that will have you crying at the end is that this one dog – Bailey – stays true to the one child (Ethan, played by Bryce Gheisar) who owned him first. Decades later, we meet up with this child and now he’s a man (played by Dennis Quaid). He sees a dog that acts just like his beloved Bailey that he had as a kid. But it can’t be, can it? Oh, but of course, you know the answer to that! It’s been five decades, but the special love between boy and dog has been kept alive in the heart, and now they are reunited in the end. Cue the sappy music.

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In short, the film is not bad filmmaking, it’s just that it’s so emotionally manipulative. But there’s something great and wonderful about the film – and that’s how unabashed it is about showing us life in America as it once was. Back in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, America was picture postcard beautiful. Neighborhoods were family-friendly, everyone owned a pet, and the future seemed bright. It wasn’t yet a tired cliché to talk about a dog as “man’s best friend.” You could take a pet dog with you on a date with a cute girl, and nobody would think twice.

And then reality happened. If you think about American pop culture today, everything has to be dark and twisted or sarcastic and ironic – even the cartoons. There’s no such thing as “baseball and apple pie” America anymore. Kids aren’t eating apple pie –they’re off smoking (legalized) pot, and nobody watches baseball anymore because all the athletes are cheaters who use steroids.

Thus, for all the critics who have unanimously panned “A Dog’s Purpose,” here’s a message: the film is perfectly OK, but the filter has changed. It’s no longer allowed for a critic to love a film that’s essentially G-rated without any irony. There always has to be a “dark and twisted” version of America nostalgia, or some epic plot to save the world. There’s nothing particularly epic here, unless you count the act of being reincarnated over and over again as something that meets the definition of epic.

The other “problem” with the film, according to the critics, is that the humor is just so ridiculously childish. The film uses humor to explain all the unexplained actions of dogs – why they love to eat food in the trash, what they’re really thinking when they stare up at you with their big puppy dog eyes (you’ll cringe when you hear the answer), and why they love to play with humans. Some critics have called the humor “insipid.” Ok, but we can still enjoy some jokes about dogs and bacon, right?

So here’s the final answer to the question if “A Dog’s Purpose” is worth the watch: if you have young kids and want them to have a moment to explore America as it once was, and to enjoy lots of scenes with dogs, then by all means, take them. You don’t get many chances like this. This is pure Americana. The answer is yes – it’s worth a watch but only under these conditions – don’t go on a date with a cute girl to this film and don’t go with your drinking buddies.

So what if the film is sugary, sentimental and clichéd? The film is great as a way for a family to spend some time together. It’s a different type of “escape” – not an escape to intergalactic space empires, but an escape to a time and a place in America that no longer exists. Forget the haters. They probably own cats, anyway. Do yourself a favor – go to a cheap matinee and see “A Dog’s Purpose” with someone very young. It could change your life and it will most certainly change theirs.

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