Cruel Intentions succumbs to the pitfalls that plague many remakes: great intentions sunken into underrealized expressions. De Laclos' novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liasons) gets recast into the lives of a few filthy rich private schoolers from Manhattan's Upper East side. The movie does alright when it confines itself to the ravenous nihilism of step-siblings Sebastian and Kathryn (Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Gellar) as they plot to seduce classmates and each other. Cruel Intentions looses its footing-which wasn't terribly secure to begin-when Kathryn bets Sebastian that he can't bed chaste Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If Sebastian wins, he gets to sleep with his sister; if he looses, he must give her his vintage '50s Jaguar. Of course, he starts truly falling for Annette, but his lack of acting ability can't express the internal changes.
The film flounders, unsure of whether to remain a dark, sex-driven comedy or spread on milquetoast morality and faint allusions to its respectable source. Cruel Intentions has compromised itself by stretching great material over characters and situations that are far too thin.