O, as in Othello. The Moor of Venice is now Odin James (Mekhi Phifer), the only black kid in an elite Southern prep school and, gee whiz, a basketball star--a player of great flair, a dark temper and, apparently, no will of his own. Iago is Hugo (Josh Hartnett), the coach's son with a bit of a grudge. Desdemona is Desi (Julia Stiles); Emilia is Emily (Rain Phoenix). As the updated plot is predictably spun out by scripter Brad Kaaya, your response may be a glum "Uh-O." Best to watch the many ovals that Nelson has cleverly worked into the visual design, and to savor Hartnett's handsomely conflicted turn as a youngster of promise that rancor sours into threat. On your already groaning Shakespeare for Teens video shelf, stack this one above 10 Things I Hate About You (a.k.a. The Taming of the Shrew) and quite a bit below Romeo + Juliet.
--By Richard Corliss