Believe it or not, there are times when reviewing movies made ten years ago based on the works of the most-reviewed writer in history, for free, for a limited readership is not the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done with my life. Other times, it means I get to watch a movie starring LL Cool J. Now, dear reader, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a movie starring LL Cool J. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, like with any and all things regarding LL Cool J, watching a movie starring LL Cool J is, by very definition, its own reward. Deliver Us from Eva (2003)
The Plot: Three guys love three ladies (but this is not Love’s Labour’s Lost), but have completely lost control of their romantic lives due to the meddling hands of the ladies’ domineering older sister Eva (Gabrielle Union). Believing that if they could just hook up Eva with man, all their problems would be solved, the gentlemen hire professional swinger Ray (LL Cool J) to seduce, romance, and otherwise subdue her. Yes, this is sort of The Taming of the Shrew. In previous installments of this series, I have written on movie adaptations of The Tempest, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Richard II, Henry IV & V, Julius Caesar, and Much Ado About Nothing. While the movies themselves were all incredibly different, and while I liked them to appropriately varying degrees, the plays all have one thing in common (aside from an author, obviously, whoever said that is a jerk): I like all of them. Upon reflection, I realized that I don’t really like The Taming of the Shrew very much. Part of this is due to the fact that neither of the two protagonists, Kate and Petruchio, are all that likable once you strip away their witty dialogue. Another reason is that I have a hard time getting behind a comedy about the methodical breaking of a person’s spirit, even if that person is sort of mean to some people.
Since Deliver Us from Eva is an early 2000s romantic comedy starring LL Cool J first, and a Shakespearean adaptation second, it heads in a few different directions, using the Bard’s play as more of a spring-board for setup rather than a template for the entire plot. First, even though we know that Ray is literally lying to a woman for money, the writers somehow manage to make him a pretty relatable guy early on, somewhat more so than Eva, who continues to be mean to him even when, as far as she knows, he doesn’t deserve it at all. Admittedly, quite a lot of Ray’s charm comes from the exuberantly charismatic LL Cool J. You know what the “LL” stands for, right? In Shakespeare’s play, Petruchio see Kate’s shrewishness and thinks, “Oh, I bet I could whittle away at the shell with a little help from my old friend Emotional Abuse.” Conversely, Ray sees that unrelenting toughness that has caused his employers such grief and thinks, “This woman has had a hard life and doesn’t seem very happy; luckily for her, I’m LL Cool J.” Once again, since Deliver Us from Eva is primarily a romcom, Ray and Eva do fall genuinely in love with each other, and the problem then becomes how Ray can confess to the awful reality that gave birth to their otherwise healthy relationship.
This man invented healthy relationships.
So, is Deliver Us from Eva a full-fledged adaptation in the way that, for example, 10 Things I Hate About You pretty much is? Not really. It’s more of an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew’s premise, which I think makes it the perfect update. A lot of updates keep the text but change the costumes, a la Romeo + Juliet, and others change everything but follow the characters and plot to the letter. Shakespeare, obviously, has an unparalleled timelessness like no other writer in history. His complex understanding of humanity, affinity for beautiful turns of phrase, and filthy, degenerative, low-brow puns all make him resonate with modern audiences, but so much of his style fits best in his own time or in the periods in which he set the plays. No, despite how on-the-ball he may be, it seems doubtful that he wrote anything with 2003 in mind. In the respect, I think the team behind Deliver Us from Eva did the right thing. It’s no sin to edit Shakespeare if you’re only using him as an inspiration. Nowhere in the credits for this movie do they claim to be an adaptation, because this isn’t The Taming of the Shrew. It’s the basic idea of The Taming of the Shrew, updated for a contemporary audience. Or at least for 2003. Plus, it stars LL Cool J. I cannot stress that enough. What more could you possibly want?