March 08, 1999 12:00 PM

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon

In this latest adaptation of the classic French tale Dangerous Liaisons, Phillippe and Gellar star as Mr. Valmont and Ms. Merteuil. Partly for sport and partly out of selfish motives of revenge, this cynical, sophisticated, sexually adroit pair launch a scheme of seduction and betrayal that results in the deflowering of several virgins and the breaking of many hearts. This version, though, is set not among the aristocracy in pre-revolutionary France but among snotty prep-school kids in ’90s Manhattan. Intentions isn’t believable, but it’s stylishly shot and full of attractive young people posed in chic clothes in expensive settings. It’s a brainless good time for The WB set.

Smiling while delivering yet another dry, supposedly devastating insult, the milky, softly handsome Phillippe (54) is initially ill at ease, like a seminarian at a cocktail party. His acting deepens when he goes all soppy over a good golden girl (Witherspoon). But Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) delivers a tense, unpleasant performance as his other half, which makes the movie feel lopsided. Selma Blair, one of the dumber victims, is the standout here. Her enthusiastic descent into depravity (she more trips than falls) is very funny. (R)

Bottom Line: High-grade kid stuff

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