Monday, August 20, 2018

REVIEW: Barely Lethal (live action movie)

Barely Lethal is a teen action comedy. I watched it on Netflix.


Young female orphans are secretly raised to be assassins at the Prescott Academy (later on viewers learn that there's a similar school for boys). They're not supposed to form any attachments, but for some reason Agent 83 can't seem to help longing for something different. She tries to cuddle the dolls she's supposed to stab and, when she hits her teen years, she finds ways to stealthily read teen magazines and watch teen movies from the '80s and '90s.

During an operation to capture a dangerous woman named Victoria Knox, 83 finds an opportunity to escape and have the kind of life she'd always dreamed of. She adopts the name Megan Walsh and signs up to live with a family in the US while claiming to be a foreign exchange student from Canada. Her "regular teen life" gets off to a rocky start due to all her intel coming from cliched teen romantic comedies, but just as she starts to feel like she's getting the hang of things and coming closer to achieving her own cliched teen romance, her Prescott rival, Agent 84, arrives and begins to ruin everything.

I was hoping for a fluffy, cute teen romantic comedy starring a kick-butt heroine. What I got was a movie that didn't quite know what it wanted to be, with an ending that fell completely flat. I wish that the movie had pushed the "real life isn't a cliched teen romantic comedy" thing more. There were a few good moments, like the part where Megan potentially missed out on an opportunity to make friends with a nice group of cheerleaders because all the movies she'd seen had painted cheerleaders as horrible, and Liz's discovery that the guy she thought was just a one-note party animal actually had more depth to him than she realized. Those things could have been expanded upon, but instead the writer ditched it all and went the teen movie cliche route.

I kind of wish Megan hadn't ended up with anybody. The singer she initially developed a crush on seemed nice enough, until the end, when he suddenly became distant and more focused on his music than on her. Roger was the "nice guy" she was supposed to realize was right for her in the end. This did, in fact, happen, but not before the screenwriter ruined Roger.

Roger failed to realize that Megan was interested in Cash, the singer, until after he'd spotted her kissing Cash at a party. I felt bad for him, up until Megan and Liz ended up in a car crash (technically a car chase that ended in a crash). Roger went to the hospital, Megan hugged him and thanked him for coming because she really needed a friend, and then he brushed her off and told her that he was sure Cash would arrive any minute. I don't care how hurt he was that she only liked him as a friend, a truly nice guy doesn't act like a jerk to the girl he supposedly likes when she's crying at the hospital after a car wreck. He didn't deserve the happy ending he eventually got, and I was left feeling like Megan had ditched one bad boyfriend for another potentially worse one.

I thought Liz's slightly psycho line about stabbing people was funny (if a bit dark), but the part that crossed a line for me was Liz and Megan's conversation about killing people. Liz asked Megan what killing someone was like, and Megan told her that she'd actually never done it before. The dialogue was set up to sound like a stereotypical "losing my virginity" conversation, leading to Liz's mom completely misunderstanding what they were talking about. Unfortunately, the writer took things too far and had Megan say that she felt her first time (killing someone) should be special, which was utterly gross. And speaking of utterly gross, what the hell was with that bit where Roger's dad started talking about how he lost his virginity to his 65-year-old babysitter? Was that supposed to be funny?

There was a scene, late in the movie, that I thought was a missed opportunity. 84 was hunting for Megan in the school's kitchen, and Megan was on the floor with her back against a stainless steel cabinet or something. The way the scene was set up made me think I was about to watch a Jurassic Park parody with 84 playing the part of a raptor. Sadly, this turned out not to be the case.

All in all, this started off reasonably well but eventually crashed and burned.

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