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Review of "D.E.B.S."

D.E.B.S. poster I've been following the progress of Angela Robinson's D.E.B.S. with interest ever since the POWER UP-funded short film it was based on debuted to much applause at Sundance a year ago and was subsequently chosen by Sony's Screen Gem division to be turned into a feature film. It seemed unusual for a short film with such explicit lesbian content--and happy/funny lesbian content, not the usual depressing lesbian characters we find in mainstream films--to get this kind of attention from a large production/distribution company.

While Robinson assured us in an interview last year that she was not pressured by Screen Gems to tone down the relationship in the feature film ("if anything," she said, "we worked together on the script to make the relationship more complex and intimate"), I couldn't help wondering whether the relationship would still get eased out somehow, since there hasn't been a comedy/action film with a decent lesbian relationship in years.

Then I wondered whether the film would even be any good, since often what's funny in a short film doesn't translate well to a feature-length movie (witness all of the Saturday Night Live skits that were turned into terrible features).

Fortunately, a few weeks ago at this year's Sundance Film Festival, my questions were finally answered when I joined a sold-out crowd applauding loudly after the world-wide premiere of D.E.B.S. (scheduled to hit theaters in March, 2005).

D.E.B.S. is a comedy about a quartet of recent high school graduates-turned-government secret agents who were chosen based on their scores on a secret test embedded with the S.A.T. that measures the ability to cheat, lie, and kill (looking good in their plaid school-girl uniforms appears to be a requirement, too).

Holland Taylor plays the task-master head of the D.E.B.S. organization, and Michael Clarke Duncan has a small role as the head of the D.E.B.S. school. The leader of this particular group of D.E.B.S. is Max (played by Megan Goode of Eve's Bayou, Deliver Us from Evie, and Biker Boyz), an assertive, serious young woman who works hard to keep everything running smoothly. The French-accented Dominique (Devon Aoki of 2 Fast 2 Furious) sleeps with a different guy every night and never goes anywhere without a cigarette in her mouth, while earnest Janet (Jill Ritchie, reprising her role from the short film on which the feature is based) tries desperately to prove her worth to Max.

Finally, we have girl-next-door Amy (Sara Foster, also starring in the upcoming Owen Wilson flick The Big Bounce), frequently referred to as "The Perfect Score" because she performed so well on the secret test. Amy has just broken up with her boyfriend, fellow government-agent Bobby (Geoff Stults from 7th Heaven), because she's not in love with him, and he's having a hard time letting go.

The D.E.B.S.' evil arch-enemy, Lucy Diamond (played by Jordana Brewster of The Fast and the Furious), is also having a hard time getting over being dumped by a girl. A career criminal whose list of bad deeds include trying to sink Australia, Lucy is shrouded in mystery to everyone but her trusty assistant, Scud (Jimmi Simpson), since no one has ever fought Lucy and lived to tell about it.

After a funny Charlie's Angels-type opening, the film follows the D.E.B.S. as they are assigned to secretly monitor a meeting between Lucy Diamond and a beautiful Russian assassin, Ninotchka (played by Jessica Cauffiel from Legally Blond and Legally Blond 2), who embodies every American movie stereotype of a Russian femme fatale.

Turns out, it's not a meeting, but a blind date arranged by Scud. At dinner, Lucy figures out pretty quickly that Ninotchka's not the one for her, but before she can end the date, shooting breaks out in the restaurant and Lucy's on the run from the D.E.B.S.--until she runs into Amy (literally) and sparks begin to fly in a hilarious verbal exchange.

Smitten with Amy, Lucy begins to create opportunities for them to be together, despite Amy's initial unwillingness to acknowledge her attraction to Lucy. But their mutual attraction quickly becomes obvious, and Amy sneaks away to stay with Lucy for a few days so they can spend some time together. The D.E.B.S. mistakenly believe Amy's been kidnapped and organize a nationwide hunt to "rescue" Amy, only to find Lucy and Amy in a rather compromising position. Their relationship no longer a secret, Amy is finally forced to choose between her loyalty to the D.E.B.S. and her feelings for Lucy.


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