Hey gang, Valkor here. Growing up and watching films in the 80s and 90s, most of them usually followed the same formula – whether its action, comedy or romance, you know from start to finish how the films were gonna go down. Plus they had a recognizable feel to them. During my time here at TOV, I’ve run into my share of films that shared the same vibe such as 17 Again, Cody the Robosapien and even Run; each of these films, I’ve enjoyed on a cheesy sorta level. And now I can add “Barely Lethal” to the pack. Going in I expected something a little more “thrilling”, but then that’s what I get for not reading the synopsis first. Beware spoilers, and they are heavy!
Barely Lethal follows the exploits of agent 83 (Hailee Steinfeld), who spent the bulk of childhood/teenage years training at an assassin school called Prescott, lead by a man named Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson). 83 is the best at what she does, but she longs for the life of a regular teenage girl – she’s even gone so far as to collect magazines and watch 90’s teenage films just to get an idea of what that life is like. Suddenly she gets an opportunity to escape when she’s out on a mission to capture female assassin Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba) and in the midst of the mission, 83 gets separated and uses that moment to fake her own death and move on to pursue her dreams. She creates a fake identity for herself in the form of “Megan” from Ragina, Canada and holds up with the Larson family – Mom Larson (Rachel Harris), Liz Larson (Dove Cameron) and young Parker Larson (Jason Ian Drucker).
As with most high school comedies, especially ones when it’s the new girl’s first day (especially one gifted with assassin abilities), Megan stumbles – a lot! But that’s mainly because she’s been following a character profile that she created from those films she watched and she even goes so far as to associate her classmates with personas from those films, such as Roger (Thomas Mann) the “A/V Geek”, the sporty douchebag of a jock Gooch (Gabriel Basso), there’s the “mean girls” cheerleaders (who weren’t really all that mean), and finally you have the hunk musician/crush Cash (Toby Sebastian). And from then on it really follows the 90s high school comedic film formula as Megan deals with a lot of teenage mishaps.
However the (predictable) catch is that there’s always a chance her former assassin teammates will find her and when Megan beats up a bunch of sophomores who were trying to prank her, well her antics go viral and reach the eyes of Hardman who sends in his 2nd best, 84 aka Heather (Sophie Turner), to keep tabs. Things get even messier when Knox escapes and goes gunning for Megan as well as her family. In the end, long story short – Megan gets asked to homecoming, but she’s also being pulled out by Hardman who ultimately allows her to go (but with no backup), at homecoming Heather shows up with the man Megan really wants (A/V Geek), all hell breaks loose, The Larsons’s are held captive, Megan comes to the rescue, Hardman comes in to cleanup and Megan learns the importance of friendship and family. The End.
As I’m watching Barely Lethal, I’m reminded of the film “Run” - here Megan is also a teen with exceptional skills, wants to have a normal high school life but the past comes back to haunt her. This is the kind of cheese I can get behind. But is it the sort of cheesy film we can stand for today? I’ll give you the 411 in the TOV Breakdown. Also is it wrong that I find all the women in this film just so... sexy? Naaaaaah!
I’ve seen my share of bad and I’ve seen my share of good – Barely Lethal fits in the middle, but leaning more towards the good side. The story is rock solid, easy to follow, straightforward yet totally paint-by-numbers, which it isn’t always a bad thing. And for this type of film, which feels like something you’d find mid afternoon on the Disney Channel, it’s to be expected. No hate, because ultimately the film is a lot more fun than I expected with some pretty decent action bits tossed in. Plus it changes things up so it isn’t too boring. The acting isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s passable and works to get you through to the end. Plus it appears everyone was enjoying themselves. I was actually surprised to see Steve-O make an appearance sans doing anything “Jackass” related, not bad. Not great but not bad. Overall, Barely Lethal isn’t the thriller I would have wanted it to be, but it certainly didn’t disappoint.
And yet the Barely Lethal isn’t exactly the “cream of the crop” right? The film could stand to use a bit of ironing to smoothen out some scenes or fix up the dialogue. I think the dialogue tries to come across too much “80s/90s-ish”, which it really shouldn’t. The tone of the film alone takes care of that. And with the scenes, well some could transition better; a prime example would be when 84 tells Hardman she has something to show him (and we can assume it involves Megan’s viral antics), the film simply skips forward past the discovery and straight on to Megan being attacked. Another let down was little Parker, who most of the time when you see him he has a weapon or cool device in his hands from Megans stash. And the kid is just funny, but it’s a wasted opportunity we don’t see more of him and his antics. Bummer.
My New Phrase of the Year:
You’re so nickel! I don’t even know what that means, but I’m ok with this!
Barely Lethal is currently making the digital rounds (available to DirectTV owners according to the official Facebook page), but expect a limited theatrical run on May 29th. The film isn’t terrible; actually it's kinda fun and a total throwback to the 80s/90s high school comedy films, with some decent action tossed in. And if you’re into those types of films, then you’ll be in for a cheesy good time. And out of TOV 5 stars, Barely Lethal gets a 3.