Reel Affirmations 2004
Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Thursday, 10/14/2004, 7:30 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Lincoln Theatre
FROM THE OPENING credits, it’s clear that D.E.B.S. gets its inspiration from Charlie’s Angels. Luckily for us all, it has much more in common with the effervescent humor of the first Angels movie, and less to do with the monotonous overkill of Full Throttle. Toss in a little bit of Buffy, a dash of just about any WB teen soap, and a pinch of Alias, and you’ve got the recipe for D.E.B.S.
The D.E.B.S. are an elite squad of schoolgirls in training to become master spies. They fight crime in their saucy plaid skirts while packing some seriously large firepower. Max, Dominique, Janet and Amy are the top squad in the academy, and as their graduation approaches, they find themselves conducting surveillance on criminal mastermind Lucy Diamond.
But Lucy doesn’t have criminal high jinks in mind — although she still has that plan for sinking Australia in the back of her mind. What she’s looking for is love. When the D.E.B.S. inadvertently crash Lucy’s blind date with a Russian assassin, the supervillain’s romantic attentions suddenly focus on golden girl Amy.
You see, D.E.B.S. is a lesbian love story buried under more schoolgirl camp than you would find at a Japanese anime convention. As Amy struggles with her newfound desires — it wouldn’t look right for the star spy pupil to hook up with an archenemy, much less come out — Lucy concocts criminal plots to force the two of them together.
Love story or not, D.E.B.S. is a comedy at its heart, and it’s most successful when focusing on the laughs. At times it veers wildly in tone between Charlie’s Angels and The Naked Gun, so it’s hard to get a handle on the film. The D.E.B.S. themselves handle their parts well — although Dominque’s world-weary French nympho ennui gets old after awhile — and Holland Taylor drops in for some great scene chewing as the head of the D.E.B.S. organization. Inexplicably, the gargantuan Michael Clark Duncan is sadly wasted — as he stands in the background of his handful of scenes, it’s easy to see his role could have been filled by a nice armoire.
Things get a little belabored at the end — nothing kills this type of comedy faster than an after school special moment of character development — but director Angela Robinson keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, creating a cotton candy confection of a movie that’s at no risk of being confused with a healthy, full-course meal.