HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Barely Lethal
HTS Overall Score:70
What young girl doesn’t want to braid her friend’s hair, paint each other’s nails, talk about boys and then go off to assassinate a world class arms dealer? At least that’s what I got out of this little action/mean girls hybrid. An elite team of fighters exist. Much like movies like “Kingsman”, or any number of dystopian spy movies, A head honcho has decided that training children since birth to become ruthless assassins is the best way to recruit loyal agents. Code named “Prescotts”, this school is run by a hardnosed commander named Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson) who raises these girls to become the ruthless killing machines that the world needs to take out bad guys. The only problem is that no matter how ruthless you train a person, no matter how much like a machine you want them to be, those girls are still human and have human desires.
Despite being one of the best of the best, agent 83 (Hailee Steinfeld) really just wants a semblance of normal life. Shooting arms dealers and dodging knife blades and bullets doesn’t really suit her personal tastes, and after watching a myriad of 80’s and 90’s teen movies, she decides to do something about it. After botching a mission that involved capturing international arms dealer, Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba), Agent 83 is missing in action. Instead of dutifully making her way back to base, she decides to take the opportunity and disappear into the wilderness of suburbia. Finding a family who will accept foreign exchange students, Agent 83 forges a new identity as Meghan, a simple girl from Canada, and inserts herself into the Larson family. The mother (played by Rachael Harris), daughter Liz (Dove Cameron) and little son Parker (Jason Ian Drucker) have mixed reactions upon seeing the new addition to their family. Mommy dearest is pleased as punch, Liz would rather die than deal with the new addition, and Parker is just a little boy, full of exuberant energy and wanting to get into trouble at every turn.
As is pretty obvious from the back of the box, Meghan’s new life in suburbia is met with some hardships as the ex special agent has to blend in with the rest of high school, and unfortunately it’s not all like an 80’s rom com dream movie. Kids are mean, they make fun of her and like girls everywhere, falls for the unattainable boy. Making friends with Roger (Thomas Mann), the nerdy, but surprisingly cute guy who automatically falls for her, Meghan pretty much obliterates everything in her. Whether that be with sheer ignorance, with some a few punches and kicks when high school life proves to be almost as dangerous as the spy world. However, things get even MORE heated when Hardman finds out where Meghan is and wants her back into the fold. Now the ex-spy has to fight off acne, boy troubles, moronic football players, a boss who wants to get her back to killing people AND protecting her family from an escaped Victoria Knox. All in teenage girls senior year at high school.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50761[/img]I have to say off the bat. I’m not exactly the target audience for “Barely Lethal”. I’m about double the age demographic and happen to also be of the male variety. This little firecracker is pretty much a spot on bullseye for 13-16 year old girls who just want a little bit of fluff fun. The snarky girl banter, the catfights, the soft action sequences all pretty much market themselves for the teen audience. My wife happens to be much younger than her years in her girl tastes and certainly got a lot of enjoyment from the movie, which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy what I saw. The action was decent enough and I laughed quite a bit, although, to balance out the equation I was moaning and holding my head in my hands as much as I was laughing.
Director Kyle Newman has done an admirable job at crafting a decently entertaining movie for the post pubescent, but not yet adult female audience with this little action flick. Hailee Steinfeld does an admirable job as the ugly duckling with a few kung fu kicks thrown in, and while Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica aren’t exactly front stage, they do more than fine with the limited screen time thrown their way. This isn’t exactly “Mean Girls”, or “Clueless” in the classic department, but it entertains well enough and the younger audience should get a kick out of it.
Rated PG-13 on appeal for sexual material, teen drinking, language, drug references and some action violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50769[/img]The 1.85:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray disc looks more than appealing with bright colors and lots of pop to the image. There is plenty of fine detail included and many of the close-ups look fantastic to the eye. Although I did notice a slightly glossy look to the faces that looked like some form of digital smoothing, which naturally made the image appear soft at times. Colors are bright and uber shiny, with lots of pinks, blues and reds to adorn the high school dream world with utter abandon. There’s pretty much not a single moment of the movie where there’s not some form of pink or red, from Agent 84’s hair down to the pink bubblegum dress worn during the second half to shiny lip gloss. Black levels are strong throughout and shadow detail never disappoints. I did notice some banding here and there, but not as egregious as I’ve seen in the past. Solid A-
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50777[/img]The lone 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable of getting the job done. While there was plenty of action and plenty of low end support throughout the movie, I felt that the soundstage was a little cramped. Vocals were recorded a bit low and needed boosting and there was a sort of “thin” feeling at times. Still the surrounds were wildly active and were in no way starved of sounds to keep spitting out. Ambient noises come through the back as silky as can be and the gunfire and fisticuffs keep the immersion level high. LFE is powerful and loud, although just a tad higher than I expected in the frequency range. Overall it was a good sounding track, with only a few minor issues that came from the rather low budget. Same as the video, a solid A- job that does what it needs to.
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary with Director Kyle Newman and Actors Dove Cameron and Thomas Mann
• Back to School: On the Set of "Barely Lethal” Featurette
“Barely Lethal” is not exactly what you would call aiming at the mid 30’s male demographic. If you’re a teen girl this very well may tickle your fancy, and it’s in no way an awful movie. Just a movie that isn’t going to get the action engines roaring in your average 20-35 year old male. There’s guns, knives, snark, pretty outfits and girls fighting over boys. Being that my wife still has an attachment to these types of movies it got plenty more giggles out of her than it did with me, so I’m assuming it’s at least a halfway decent movie if you fit that demographic. The disc has some very good specs to its name and if you’re said teenage girl, or HAVE said teenage girl, it should be a decent enough rental for them.
Starring: Jessica Alba, Samuel L. Jackson, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by: Kyle Newman
Written by: John D'Arco
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 99 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Buy Barely Lethal On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Rental For the Girls
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