I feel exactly the same as you probably do about sequels of all sorts. And when it comes to giving an unnecessary follow-up to a movie that is cult for me, that takes me back to my teenage years and that I still enjoy watching from time to time, I’m like a papa bear: I feel protective, the whole idea makes me angry and sad. Cruel Intentions was an awesome movie when it came out in 1999, bold and racy. At a time when you question your sexuality, your confused desires, it was certainly unsettling, disturbing and thrilling. Writer and director Roger Kumble kept the best from Les Liaisons Dangereuses and turned it into a modern and generational tale of power struggle and perversion. It was powerful and cunning and became a boxoffice success, grossing $75 million on a $10.5 million budget. So I read the pilot script of this sequel with a mix of tremendous excitement and terrible fear. And oh boy, I’m relieved to tell you Cruel Intentions the series looks like something primetime soap opera lovers could love to death. Even though we had many disappointments in that department the past few years like Revenge, Empire proved recently there is still an audience for it as long as it’s assumed as such, with wittiness and a bit of insanity. And that’s what’s Cruel Intentions is offering.
First, remember there was a first attempt to make it a TV series for FOX in 2000, which was a prequel that took place several years before, back to when Kathryn first met Sebastian at a prestigious school, called Manchester Prep. They filmed three episodes and it got cancelled even before it premiered. Episode 3 reportedly outraged FOX chairman Rupert Murdoch because of a scene where the character of Cherie has an orgasm while riding a horse. Yes, maybe it was a bit too much. But still, it could have been a really cool teen show, distinctive from what was already on the air at the time like Dawson’s Creek or Buffy. A better Gossip Girl, way before Gossip Girl. In the end, it was transformed into a TV movie entitled Cruel Intentions 2. What happened was a shame and we can see this sequel as Roger Kumble’s revenge, especially since what is depicted in the show is not as difficult to imagine on network television as it was 15 years ago. In the event of another failure, we can still hope for a release of the pilot one way or another. And Sarah Michelle Gellar’s still very active fans will probably campaign for it. But let’s be hopeful for now!
The idea of this sequel came from Roger Kumble himself, as well as Lindsey Rosin and Jordan Ross who wrote The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Cruel Intentions, whose staging at Los Angeles’ Rockwell Table & Stage in May 2015 generated some buzz and drew Reese Witherspoon, Gellar and co-star Selma Blair, who all attended. The new writers loved the movie, it really shows when you read the script. They tried their best to stay true to the characters, especially to Kathryn Mertueil and Annette Hargrove since they’re coming back, and true to the vibes the movie sent. And they did a great job in my opinion. There’s not a moment when you think “Oh, Kathryn would have never done that!”. They make several allusions to the past, with scenes that mirrors what happened 15 years ago but with the new generation -especially one where Bash leaves Kansas in his car with the diary of his late father on the passenger seat, while the iconic Bittersweet Symphony starts to unfold. But they’re not telling the same story all over again. They update it and move forward.
You got “the parents”, still at war despite appearances, with Kathryn still holding a grudge against Annette who ruined her reputation and made her life a living hell for quite some time. She’s still savory and totally insane, now living with a rich man she’s not in love with anymore but who’s too precious to lose in her great scheme of things. And rest assured, she still got the best lines. Sarah Michelle Gellar can only thrive on this. Some might think it’s sad for her, a step back in her career but let’s be honest: refusing to reprise the role would have been a mistake, whatever happens next. Annette is more or less the same nice gal. But she’s not played by Reese Witherspoon anymore and of course that’s a real concern. We will have to get past this, as hard it is. We can only hope this part of the show will be taken care of as well as in The OC, equally.
The kids, living in the era of Twitter, Snapchat, sextapes, are more promiscuous than ever, still confused and adventurous. Bash is the perfect mix between his smart and innocent mother and his smart and devious father. I don’t know if this Taylor John Smith is any good but he can do wonders with what he’s given. Cassidy, Kathryn’s daughter-in-law, is sexy and bitchy, but I think her ex-boyfriend is way more refreshing. He is gay now and I would compare him to Connor from How To Get Away With Murder. The same kind of manwhore, which is still very new on television. I guess we’ll have a lot of fun with him. He’s funny… and cruel. But they all are, that’s the beauty of it. There’s a huge cliffhanger at the end of the pilot. My lips are sealed. I’m not sure the production will be able to keep it a secret (or will even try?) but it won’t please everybody, that’s for sure. Me, I think it’s bold and probably too hard resist to…
I could elaborate on this Cruel Intentions sequel even more but I don’t want to spoil the whole thing. I’m asking you not to be afraid. It’s the soap we’re waiting for a long time. The ultimate soap? Dangerous Liaisons kinda is, after all. It’s respectful to the movie, it’s full of twists and turns, it’s funny and racy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and you shouldn’t watch it too seriously either. It’s exactly what you secretly want and hope for. Trust Me. Of course, with all the Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Revenge that came and went, it doesn’t feel like it’s this original. But it’s better written. It’s not surprising NBC chose this soap project among all of those they developed. You can hardly do better than this! That being said, it doesn’t fit with the network. At all. And I’m not entirely sure people who didn’t watch the movie at the time, because they were too young or already too old, are willing to give it a chance. You can’t say no to a script like this but casting will be crucial… NBC’d better not be cruel. We need this and we didn’t even know it for all those years!