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D.E.B.S.

By no stretch of the imagination is D.E.B.S. (2004) — a low-budget, tongue-in-cheek spoof about a group of short-skirted teenage girls recruited via the SAT to work for a top-secret government paramilitary agency — a great movie. But it's also not nearly as bad as the critics who trashed it during its theatrical run would have you believe. Look past the indie-quality "special" effects and a couple of clunky performances and you'll find a fun, fast-paced action comedy that makes up for most of its shortcomings with sheer enthusiasm. Model/actress Sara Foster stars as leggy Amy Bradshaw. With her time at the D.E.B.S. academy coming to a close, Amy starts to question everything, from her career choice to her handsome, earnest boyfriend Bobby (Geoff Stults). When a routine stakeout leads to an encounter with sexy supervillainess Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster), Amy finally feels the spark her life has been missing. Then she disappears, leaving her fellow D.E.B.S. — tough Max (Meagan Good), world-weary Dominique (Devon Aoki), and perky Janet (Jill Ritchie) — to break out the big guns and plan a rescue mission… not knowing that Amy might not want to be found. D.E.B.S. began its life as a series of comics scribbled by writer/director Angela Robinson, who then turned her stick figures into flesh-and-blood characters in a short film (also called D.E.B.S.) that debuted at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. A deal with Sony Screen Gems got Robinson $2 million and 28 days to expand her short into a feature; considering those constraints, the final product is actually fairly impressive. D.E.B.S.' greatest strength is its knowing, cheerfully campy tone, particularly in the hands of the more adept cast members. Foster, unfortunately, isn't one of them. She's better here than she was in the remake of The Big Bounce (2004) with Owen Wilson, but she's still pretty stiff in spots. Much more fun to watch are Brewster (whose bright-eyed determination and mischievous grins make her lovelorn Lucy more sympathetic than any of the D.E.B.S. themselves), Ritchie, and oddball supporting actor Jimmi Simpson, who plays Lucy's sidekick Scud. Ritchie (the only cast member who was also in the original short) is great as Janet, the ultimate preppy good-girl, whose naiveté and stress about breaking the rules make for some good laughs, and Simpson is just off-kilter enough as Scud to be appealing, rather than artificially quirky. His "duet" with Lucy during a montage set to Erasure's "A Little Respect" is one of the movie's funniest moments. D.E.B.S. may not be on the fast track to cult-classic status, but it's fun, which is all a movie like this really needs to be. Sony/Columbia TriStar brings the film to DVD in both full screen and anamorphic (2.35:1) transfers, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (French 2.0 Surround and English and French subtitles are also available). Surprisingly, the original short isn't one of the discs' special features, but other extras include two commentary tracks (Robinson's is eager and informative; the one recorded by Brewster, Foster, Ritchie, and Good is girly, gossipy, and rather pointless), a standard "making-of" featurette, a handful of deleted and extended scenes, a music video for The Weekend's "Into the Morning," a five-minute animatic sequence, a still gallery, a few of Robinson's original D.E.B.S. comics, and previews. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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