Barely Lethal Blu-ray Review
Mashing spy thriller with teenage high school comedy, BARELY LETHAL concocts a recipe ripe for potential. With an energetic opening credit sequence using fun animation to set the stage for a playful good time, the film begins with a montage of children training to be special agents. Light and humorous, BARELY LETHAL has the right idea but quickly abandons the clever concepts for the heavily traveled road, where its footprints are lost among the many before it.
Wanting more out of life, teenage special ops agent 83 or Megan Walsh (Hailee Steinfeld, TRUE GRIT) seizes an opportunity to fake her own death to get away. Her espionage background makes becoming a foreign exchange student and finding a host family rather simple. But before she enrolls in high school, Megan researches what it’s like to be a “normal” student by watching films like CLUELESS, SIXTEEN CANDLES, BRING IT ON, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, and MEAN GIRLS. This gold mine of misconception material should have been dug into more deeply for running gags, but instead supplies the lone funniest joke before discarding it completely. Going for the easy sight gags of bad clothing and beating people up through incredible physical feats becomes more of a plot device perfect for fellow classmates to capture and share on social media, providing a danger for our rogue agent.
The fish out of water concept isn’t new but there is room for a fresh take within the world of playing against stereotypes. Unfortunately, BARELY LEGAL shies away from the witty humor and replaces it with forgettable action sequences. The desired boy in the school seems straight out of Saved By The Bell episode who constantly strums his guitar and sings soulfully without a hint of irony. The jokes come at the expense of the girls and even teachers who adore him rather than the ridiculous character himself.
The performances are fine with a few notable names in supporting roles. Samuel L. Jackson plays the head agent instructor, Hardman. Jessica Alba is a wanted arms dealer and ex-agent, Victoria Knox. Sophie Turner (whom I adore as Sansa from the greatest television show ever, Game of Thrones) plays rival agent 84 or Heather. But these characters along with those in Megan’s new home and school life don’t have a whole lot to do.
BARELY LETHAL is rarely likable and barely watchable. I should never expect much from a film like this, but with such a promising opening using a delightful play on teenage movies, my hopes were raised only to be let down by inconsistency. The film is not without some charm but it feels all the more disappointing when it squanders away some fun possibilities.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 1.85:1) The picture is clear but also flat with some poor special effects involving green screen background.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is decent.
Audio Commentary with Director Kyle Newman and Actors Dove Cameron and Thomas Mann: A light commentary where the director gives informational bits, while the actors attempt humor and give lots of praise.
Back to School: On the Set of Barely Lethal (10:45): Lots of generic praise for the film and the director. Everyone agrees that the cast became real friends and they repeat that sentiment for ten minutes.
Deleted Scenes (6:49): Seven scenes that matched some of the humor of the film.