William shakespeare drafted the idea, but O owes a greater artistic debt to ”She’s All That.” It is just another teen movie, an adaptation of ”Othello” that exchanges high tragedy for high-body-count melodrama, the court of Venice for a basketball court in South Carolina, and blank verse for empty slang. The movie was released to theaters two years after it wrapped because its distributors fretted about issuing a violent high school flick in the wake of Columbine; thereby, four semesters’ worth of slacking 10th graders never came to think that Shakespeare may have written something along the lines of ”Brandy, what are you trippin’ about?”
Playing the Othello figure, the lone black player on his prep school’s hoops squad, Mekhi Phifer is made to look not like a grand soldier undone by jealousy, but a fleetingly civilized animal — a characterization as offensive as it is dramatically uninteresting. As the Iago figure, the winsome Josh Hartnett is made to look like the winsome Josh Hartnett, which makes it difficult to believe that he’s orchestrating more schemes than an Enron exec. You want Moor for your money? Rent the Orson Welles version.