Director: Angela Robinson Starring: Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Meagan Good, Devon Aoki, Jill Richie, Jimmi Simpson, Geoff Stults, Holland Taylor, Michael Clarke Duncan
Certificate: 12 Running Time: 88 Minutes
Tagline: “They’re crime-fighting hotties with killer bodies”
Just when you thought you’d seen just about every kind of spy film possible, it’s time to think again… Prepare yourself for… the D.E.B.S! Apparently, there is a secret test hidden within the SAT exams that measures an applicant’s ability to fight, cheat, lie, and steal. Students who score high enough are plucked from high school to join a paramilitary unit called the D.E.B.S – Discipline, Energy, Beauty, Strength – whose job it is to protect us all from the world’s ‘Super Villians’! One particular team of D.E.B.S is nearing graduation from the Academy just as the criminal mastermind, Lucy Diamond re-emerges from the Super Villian wilderness.
Led by Mr. Phipps (Clarke Duncan), the team consists of bad tempered leader, Max (Good), second-in-command and ‘Perfect Score’, Amy (Foster), French exchange student, Dominique (Aoki), and naive rookie, Janet (Ritchie), and they have been charged with bringing down Lucy Diamond (Brewster) and her criminal empire. Back in town after a self-imposed exile, Lucy’s first order of business is to go on a blind date arranged by her right-hand-man, Scud (Simpson), and it is here that the D.E.B.S take their chance to capture her. The only problem? Nobody has ever faced Lucy and lived to tell about it! Oh nooo!
During this inevitably botched attempt to capture Lucy, it transpires that she’s gay (her blind date is with another woman)! After evading the D.E.B.S attempts to take her down, she makes her escape only to quite literally bump into Amy. They are initially wary of each other for obvious reasons, but after a brief stand-off they hit it off! Lucy makes a hasty exit before anyone else finds her, but not before deciding she wants to see the apparently straight Amy again. Amy, meanwhile, is immediately hailed a hero for being the first person to survive an encounter with Lucy! Will she remain loyal to her fellow D.E.B.S, or will she be tempted by Lucy?
Yes okay, it sounds ridiculous, I know! Teenage spies working on a par with the CIA, Homeland Security, etc is somewhat improbable to start with, but when they’re all sexy girls complete with impractical, not to mention highly conspicuous uniforms consisting of miniskirts and a white blouse, it’s bordering on preposterous! Still, whoever said that every film has to be super-realistic? The acting on show here is actually of a pretty decent standard. Not a huge amount is asked of anyone in the film and they all perform their roles well enough. The two main characters, Amy and Lucy, are both very likeable and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re both lovely to look at either!
Jordana Brewsters Lucy Diamond is probably the most memorable thing about this film. Whilst never making a convincing ‘Super Villian’, she remains appealing and every scene involving her is enjoyable, especially when she’s practising her squinty-eyed look. Sara Foster, meanwhile, is convincing as the conflicted, goody-two-shoes Amy, and the two make a nice, if somewhat unlikely pair. Of the remainder of the team, Aoki is, in my view, horrifically miscast as the French exchange student, Dominque, and she sports among the worst fake accents I’ve ever heard in a film. Luckily she doesn’t get a lot of screen time! On the other hand, Ritchie is highly amusing as the prissy rookie, Janet, and Good is equally entertaining with her bad-tempered shouting and scowling.
The only other noteworthy character really is Scud. Like Lucy, he’s not remotely convincing as a bad-ass criminal, I expect that’s part of the joke, but he’s very funny in almost all of his scenes and I get the impression he improvised a lot of them. Particularly enjoyable is his and Lucy’s mimed performance of ‘A Little Respect’ by Erasure. In fact, while I think of it, the whole soundtrack is pretty decent, including the likes of Goldfrapp, Garbage, and The Cure among the lesser-known, but equally enjoyable artists. It’s just a shame it’s not easier to get hold of!
It’s really hard to know what to make of this film! To be perfectly honest, I almost turned it off after the first 15 minutes. The brief ‘making of’ on the disc features an interview with director, Robinson, and some of her crew. I’m pretty sure they’re all lesbians and it seems like Robinson made the film (based on an earlier short of hers – Ritchie is the only returning actress) purely to satisfy fantasies of hers. The entire premise of the D.E.B.S is ridiculous and never convincing but, comedic spoofiness aside, it’s the love story that is the point of the film, and that aspect is handled pretty well.
The film does improve after the somewhat inauspicious opening act though, and is worth persevering with despite the patchy-at-best script. In short, D.E.B.S is ridiculous, even cringe-inducing at times, but also intriguing enough to keep you watching. It has enough bright spots to make up for its obvious shortfalls (including many gaping plotholes) and, for me at least, is something of a guilty pleasure! Hell, it even has a homage to Citizen Kane. In a film like this, that’s a must see!
RKS Score: 6/10