Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 01/18/04 17:30:35

"Picture Charlie's Angels with some actual lesbainism. Sounds great, eh?"
3 stars (Average)

Just about 365 days ago, my Sundance pals and I were delighted by a short called D.E.B.S. It focused on a trio of sexy young spies (all dressed in those awesome schoolgirl skirts and ties!) who were hell-bent on infiltrating their enemy's lair in an effort to rescue the fourth member of their team. That this fourth member was in the midst of enjoying a playfully randy lesbian love scene was just the icing on the cake. This short was clever and colorful, kinetic and kinky. So now comes the feature-length version, padded out to well over the original's 11-minutes, and despite the fact that the gimmick has been spread quite thin this time around, this newer D.E.B.S. still offers enough goofy good fun to warrant a visit.

So it turns out that in addition to measuring English and math aptitude for us "regular folks" the S.A.T. exams also serve a rather clandestine purpose as well: to weed out the finest recruits for the D.E.B.S. spy school. All of the agents are young, perky, pretty and rather ass-kickin' too. We got the sex-crazy Asian bad-girl Dominique (Devon Aoki), the adorably bubble-brained Janet (Jill Ritchie, the only actor to reprise her role from the short version), the sweet-natured good girl Amy (Sara Foster), and their no-nonsense leader Max (Meagan Good). On the other end is the nefarious lady criminal Lucy Diamond, as played by the scene-stealing Jordana Brewster, and her not-so-nasty henchman Scud (Jimmi Simpson).

Obviously it's up to the D.E.B.S. gals to thwart Lucy's evil schemes...but things go goofily askew when Amy, fresh off the dumpage of her mouth-breathing boyfriend, somehow manages to fall in love with the villainous Lucy! Thus begins a lesbianic love affair that's repeatedly dashed because, well, Lucy's a super-criminal and Amy is an elite she-spy crime-fighter.

Debut filmmaker Angela Robinson hits a lot of her marks here, while also allowing her film to meander more than once. Lengthy stretches pass by with nary a laugh, although there's more than enough colorful kookiness and delicious eye-candy to help smooth over the rough spots. (What Michael Clarke Duncan, as a D.E.B.S. advisor, is doing in this movie is beyond me; he has perhaps three scenes, none of which have any real impact on the movie.) Sight gags and some subtle touches of slapstick offer some relatively consistent chuckles, though the movie is virtually bereft of the Out Loud sort of laughs that some may be expecting.

One thing that Robinson does get right, and it's a noteworthy factor indeed, is that her movie deals with homosexuality in a way that doesn't pander or ridicule. The moments of 'lady love' (calm down, fellas; skin-wise this flick's a PG-13 affair) are handled with a welcome degree of normalcy. Well, perhaps 'normal' isn't the right word to describe a Spy Gals Farce that frequently dabbles in silliness, but it's great that the 'lesbian angle' isn't sniggered or leered at.

On the technical side, D.E.B.S. is surprisingly impressive. The handful of special effects on display are both clever and effective. (Gotta love that the D.E.B.S. hideout is protected a forcefield that matches the gals' sexy plaid skirts.) The ladies fill their roles with much playfulness and fun, though Foster and Brewster easily make the largest impressions, and veteran character actor Holland Taylor pops up for a few fun scenes as the girl's callous captain.

D.E.B.S. is very light and airy and frequently quite fun, yet one can't help but feel that the feature-length version is too little butter spread over too much toast. That's not to say it's a bad film (it's not), but I'd bet that Angela Robinson has some better movies up her sleeve. Based on the playfully sexy (and silly) tone of her debut feature, Robinson's one I'll be keeping an eye out for in the future.

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