Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/05/05 20:36:28

"Or, how to take all the fun out of superspy lipstick lesbians in skirts."
1 stars (Sucks)

“D.E.B.S.” begins as a spoof, ends as a heartfelt comedy, and the journey from one to the other is even more confused than it would seem. This is a film that does not know what it wants to be, and so it rambles aimlessly, annoyingly. It wants to be funny, or, failing that, at least fun, and yet it is neither. It’s a long, hard slog to make it through this painful mess, and so I’ll warn those of you thinking of watching it that no, the gun-toting hotties in skimpy schoolgirl outfits do not, I repeat, do not make it worth the effort.

What I think the film is going for is a bit of lighthearted spy parody, somewhere in between the outright spoofdom of “Austin Powers” and the cheeky action-comedy of “Charlie’s Angels.” The film, based on a short film of the same name (which was a big hit at the 2003 Sundance, and which written and directed, as this feature-length version is, by newcomer Angela Robinson), involves a spy college of sorts where hot young model types train to be top secret agents. It’s Spy Babes, and it’s not meant to be taken seriously.

Which leads us to our main problem: Robinson takes it seriously. The gist of the plot is that the D.E.B.S. (don’t ask what it means - when we finally find out, it doesn’t make a lick of sense) are hot on the trail of master criminal/lipstick lesbian Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster), who winds up falling in love with top trainee Amy (Sara Foster). Right about here is where the movie drops its spy spoofery, rolling head first into bland romantic comedy. All sense of camp is shoved aside awkwardly (reappearing even more awkwardly later) in order for these two young babes to profess their love while the director’s favorite songs play on the soundtrack.

(Speaking of which, the film’s use of music is downright terrible. We’re given, say, the Cure’s “Lovecats,” a great tune, to be sure, only the song doesn’t remotely fit the scene one bit. This happens quite frequently here - consider the lip-synch montage fueled by Erasure’s “A Little Respect” - suggesting that Robinson doesn’t have the ear for soundtrack building.)

Anyway. The transition from parody to straight (so to speak) is one that quite simply never works. The comedy never clicks in the early scenes (sample joke: a Russian uses the phrase “blowing me” instead of “blowing me off,” har har), and the lousy acting, shoddy scripting, and weak production values defeats the film’s intended kookiness. So we simply don’t care one smidge when the jokes are dropped in favor of tenderness - and we also don’t care when the jokes are picked back up at random times, whenever the movie remembers it’s supposed to be an action-comedy.

How ill-conceived is this movie? It ends with what is, essentially, the prom. There’s some big gala ball dropped in, some lame end-of-the-year prom substitute, as though Robinson felt that’s where the movie had to end - hey, all movies like this end at the prom, right? (Never mind that the film is supposed to be a friggin’ spy spoof, not a teen movie.) Of course, it makes no sense, and it’s a cheap way out of a messy plot. We even get a Big Speech made by our hero to the class of ’05, revealing once more how lazy everything gets. And if all this sounds lame in a review, it’s even more so in the actual movie.

(Here’s as good a spot as any to mention that both Holland Taylor and Michael Clarke Duncan pop up in minor roles, and the fact that neither want to be there can be seen on both faces. Considering that both have appeared in some major duds, to realize that they so very much just want to collect their check and go home should clue you in as to how depressingly awful this picture is.)

“D.E.B.S.” is essentially two steps away from being a Troma movie. It features most of the requirements: indistinguishable babes in skimpy outfits carrying guns; horrible attempts at humor (one character is supposed to be French, just so she can wear a beret and have a funny accent); cheap exaggeration in the name of cheaper entertainment. The film surely tries to appeal to fans of camp, goofball eccentricity, and obvious exploitation.

And yet it fails even here, for somewhere along the line, it also decides it wants to be a real movie, too. Robinson doesn’t know how to work it both ways, and her film’s desperate attempts to stay afloat while trying only lead to seasickness. This is another film that once again tries to be anything, and fails at everything.

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