Angela Robinson released her short film, “D.E.B.S.” to much fanfare at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003. Now, a year later, she has put together a feature length film on the concept (an elite group of women recruited into a secret spy organization through the use of a test hidden within the S.A.T.). Access to an actual budget and big name acting talent has helped her idea in many ways, and hurt it in others.
First, let me just say that it’s hard to go wrong with hot chicks in schoolgirl outfits. The D.E.B.S. themselves – Amy (Sara Foster), Max (Meagan Goode), Dominique (Devon Aoki), and Janet (Jill Ritchie) – certainly sport their attire well. They are the “top squad” of the current D.E.B.S. program, and have been assigned to track down the notorious supervillainess Lucy Diamond (Jordanna Brewster). They stake out Lucy’s meeting with a female Russian assassin at a local restaurant, only to discover that the rendezvous isn’t to order a hit, but is in fact a blind date. That’s right, Lucy’s a lesbian, and in the ensuing gunfight, she and D.E.B. Amy come away with feelings for each other that are, shall we say, somewhat more than sisterly.
Second, let me just say that it’s hard to go wrong with hot lesbians in schoolgirl uniforms. It’s also refreshing to see a lesbian-themed film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and no one can accuse Robinson of playing up the melodrama. “D.E.B.S.” is campy, but infused with enough intelligent humor to make one forgive the occasional misstep. As for casting, Jimmie Simpson (as Lucy’s right-hand man, “Scud”) and Jill Ritchie stand out. Ritchie in particular is note-perfect in her portrayal as a goofy and, at times, indignant teen. The rest of the cast are solid enough, handling what are sometimes shallow roles with humor and enthusiasm. The visual effects are also quite impressive.
“D.E.B.S.,” while more smartly written than most teen comedies, doesn’t always connect with the jokes. Further, it may have difficulty finding more than a cult following, thank to its subject matter. A significant portion of Americans may not be too enthused about a story of lesbian awakening, even if it is couched in a goofy spy send-up. Too vulgar for teens, too cute for true sleaze fans, Robinson’s film could struggle in connecting with an audience. “D.E.B.S.” also sometimes feels a bit thin for a full-length movie, contrasting with the success of the original short.
Still, if you didn’t like “Charlie’s Angels,” there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the smarter, sexier “D.E.B.S.” If you liked “Charlie’s Angels,” you might still enjoy this film, though it would probably help if you had that brain tumor looked at first.