D.E.B.S. (2004)

(On Cable TV, October 2016) I expected more from D.E.B.S. The initial setup (Young women recruited in a bubble-gum spy organization through SAT test results) isn’t bad and the overall premise (same-sex romance between spy and terrorist mastermind) does have a kick to it. But the way D.E.B.S. is executed usually falls flat. While the film embraces campiness, low-budget production techniques and ridiculous humour, the overall result feels a bit too forced to be enjoyable. The campiness isn’t an antidote for bland dialogue and dumb humour, and there’s a feeling throughout the film that the filmmakers would rather wink and nudge to the audience rather than beef up the script. The low-budget aesthetics (constant green screens, artificial staging, excessive cross-cutting without establishing shots) get tiresome after a while and reinforce the amateurish nature of the film. D.E.B.S. occasionally jolts to life whenever there’s a good line or two, and greatly benefits from the presence of Fast and the Furious alumni Jordana Brewster and Devon Aoki, but ultimately it looks like a punchline in search of a decent setup. The first few minutes’ comic inventiveness is quickly reduced to nearly nothing, while the girl-girl hero/villain romance doesn’t quite gel into something more than moderately interesting. I will certainly give it points for being something self-assuredly different from the norm (and, obviously, being a passion project for writer/director Angela Robinson), but there’s a leap from there to a genuinely enjoyable film that D.E.B.S. doesn’t quite take. It may be worth a look as a curiosity, but otherwise it’s a disappointment even without high expectations.

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