After Cruel Intentions was released and made a lot of money, it was decided that the movie be translated into a television show. I’m not sure why once you consider just what you can and can’t show on network television, but considering how much of a tease the first film was, I suppose I can see how the idea might work. Well, at least three episodes were shot, and were scheduled to air.

Then it got canceled. With the money already spent, writer/director Roger Kumble (who was also behind the first Cruel Intentions) decided to rework the footage into a feature length film destined for home video. Instead of a reworking of the story from the first film, it was reworked into a prequel. Cruel Intentions 2, then shows us how Kathryn and Sebastian became the masters of manipulation that we watched in the previous iteration.

Or, that’s what you might expect. While that’s the end result, that part of the story only really happens in the last five minutes of the production. Up until that point, Cruel Intentions 2 doesn’t appear as if it will set-up the plot of the first film at all. Then there’s a quick twist that makes no sense, a character becomes the one we saw earlier on, and it kind of works as a prequel. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but given the circumstances and the constraints that are at play here, you can understand why it doesn’t all work.

The film begins with Sebastian (Robin Dunne takes over from Ryan Phillipe in the role) being kicked out of his school and sent to New York. As payback on the school principal, Sebastian takes a provocative photo of the man’s wife and put it into the school yearbook, which opens our film to pretty much the same tone as the first Cruel Intentions. Good to see that a lot has changed, although considering that this was originally meant to just be a reimagining of the story and not a prequel, it makes sense for the openings to be similar. The rest of the film will follow suit in this regard, unfortunately.

In New York, he is finally reunited with his father (David McIlwraith), whom he hasn’t seen in years. Daddy is now in his fourth marriage (his wife is played by Mimi Rogers), which has brought a step-child into the picture named Kathryn (Amy Adams replaces Sarah Michelle Gellar). She plays the piano, is head of several clubs, is an A+ student, and so on. Sebastian is equally as smart, but doesn’t apply himself. The rivalry begins as soon as they lay eyes on each other.

The next day is the next day of school, and once again, the pair is in high school. I’m still surprised that these people, all of whom look to be in their mid-twenties, are supposed to be under the age of 18 — and by quite a bit, considering this film takes place a couple of years before Cruel Intentions — but there you go. Most of the film deals with the relationships at the school, paralleling what happened in the first film. Remember, it wasn’t originally supposed to be a prequel, but a retelling of the same story.

The only real differences are that there’s no bet that takes place between these two characters, and the two leads are feuding more often than not. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same movie. Kathryn takes a naive young girl (Keri Lynn Pratt) under her wing, hoping to turn her into more experienced, sexually, than is desired, while Sebastian takes aim at the Headmaster’s daughter, Danielle (Sarah Thompson), who is not in the least bit interested in him — initially, that is. If you’ve seen Cruel Intentions, you’ve seen most of this movie already.

Oh, and Sebastian is also a much nicer person in this film than he starts off in Cruel Intentions. His love story actually isn’t particularly manipulative, and compared to Kathryn, he’s like a saint. He doesn’t even talk down to the servants that their parents hire! Of course, this all has to change for this film to connect to the earlier one, so the last five minutes makes sure that this is how he ends up. It feels really tacked on and does the film a disservice, but it’s an unfortunate necessity given the situation.

For a TV series that was converted to a movie, this isn’t a bad effort. It’s completely unnecessary given that it’s incredibly similar to the movie that inspired it, but it’s not terrible. It has lower production values and worse actors, but there were a couple of parts I liked better (Kathryn’s story actually gets closure), and it’s consistently watchable. Knowing the production history gives you a different perspective as well, and is almost a must in order to appreciate the film at all.

Cruel Intentions 2 is, surprisingly, not a terrible film. It’s completely unnecessary and is ultimately worse than its predecessor due to its repetition, lower production values and worse acting, and it doesn’t work as a prequel all that well, but considering the production history and the fact that it’s actually kind of enjoyable, it’s hard to be particularly mad about it. You’re better off watching the first Cruel Intentions over this one, but if you’re dying for more of these characters, you have it here.