I'm not a big fan of teen comedies. They mostly are lame, trading on the same old plots and clichés that have been around since Animal House and Porkies. The recent trend has just seen classical texts adapted giving rise to some poor films like `She's all that'. The plot for this is basically `The Taming of the Shrew' updated - most of it bares little resemblance to the play but that doesn't matter - the core is interesting enough to stand on it's own. It may not surprise you in terms of who gets which girl and it's fairly predictable in a romantic comedy type way but that's not it.
No - the film is funny, lively and pretty enjoyable. The comedy is built around the central plot with lots of nice touches and characters that are genuinely funny, such Mr Morgan and the erotic drama writing headmistress. The jokes happily never stoop to the gross-out type and this helps it feel fresh and lively, rather than just scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
Another strength is that the cast are all very likeable and give good performances all round. Compared to the horror or Prince and Lillard in `She's all that' this was a dream cast. Ledger is a real up and comer and he does well here - he doesn't over-egg his bad boy cake and his fall into love is believable. Stiles is very cool and better than the teen roles she has had of late. Here she rises above the `outsider' cliché given to her and does good work - again being a likeable and believable character.. Gordon-Levitt is OK but quite characterless compared to the main two roles, likewise Oleynik. The bets roles are those on the edges and the three adult support roles really do well and are very funny - Janney, Mitchell and especially Miller on good form. Gabrielle Union is once again given a side role that doesn't play to her strength. I like her and want to see her in bigger roles but here she is a `minority face' in a predominately white film, just as she was in She's All That - maybe I'm being a little paranoid but that's what it feels like.
Overall I was taken by surprise as to how funny and lively this film was. It didn't sink to the gross out comedy of so many teen movies and had characters and actors who brought spark and energy to the screen. It may be predictable but it works and the jokes and side characters just add to the sense of fun. Not brilliant but compared to the mediocre bunch of teen comedies you COULD watch, this is fantastic!