The war between men and women is nothing new, witness The Taming of the Shrew: The archaic language can't conceal a story as pertinent as anything written today and twice as sharp.This teen-oriented gloss on Shakespeare's tale is cute and occasionally quite funny, but it's undermined by slack direction: Far too many scenes are allowed to play way longer than they should, and Gil Junger's TV roots are revealed in his excessive reliance on close-ups and the cast's preponderance of TV actors. Whip-smart, aggressively disagreeable senior Kat (Julia Stiles), whose tense, teen queen face fairly screams "bite me," is the terror of Padua High, a Tasmanian Devil of contrary opinions, acerbic put downs and antisocial attitudes. Her sophomore sister Bianca (Larisa Oleyniak, of Nickelodeon's The Secret World of Alex Mack) is an altogether more agreeable girl who just wants a regular teenage life: nice clothes, parties, friends and dates. The sticking point is that their dad (Larry Miller) is terrified his daughters will become teen pregnancy statistics -- especially boy-magnet Bianca -- and has hit upon a novel way to keep them in line: He decrees that Bianca can't date until Kat does. Since Kat has her male classmates cowering, Bianca's virtue appears unassailable. But one of her admirers cooks up a plan that involves paying handsome Patrick (Heath Ledger) to breach Kat's defenses, and the usual romantic complications ensue. The result is no CLUELESS -- it's especially unfortunate that genuinely clever dialogue alternates with exchanges of the "You butthead!" "Who are you calling a butthead, butthead!" variety -- but it's pleasant enough. If only the characters weren't so underdeveloped that they're consistently upstaged by Padua High School itself: The location, an Italianate castle overlooking Puget Sound, has more personality than the lot of them.