Some Saturday nights call for playing a girly movie that defines the very definition of “chick flick.” That’s exactly what I found when watching this action film (many months back now). Wearing its heart on its sleeve, Barely Lethal gives us an insanely likable heroine and a script that isn’t short on sass.
Barely Lethal (2015) Film Review
The Hardman School “finishing school” for girls is unusual. Instead of social graces and basic arithmetic, this school teaches the finer points of weaponry and more specifically, acquiring a target. You see Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson) runs a government agency school that trains young girls to be assassins. Many of his students are orphans, including his brightest star, Agent 47 (Hailee Steinfeld). Agent 47 may excel at her job, but she also longs for a clean slate. Adding to her string of successes, she successfully secures the capture of one of the school’s greatest arch nemesis’ Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba). Only in so doing, Victoria bests her before she can react. Believing her to be dead, Hardman and her team leave her behind.
Seizing her opportunity, she crafts a new identity and adopts the name of Megan Walsh, promptly setting about living a normal teenage life. She pretends to be a Canadian foreign exchange student and picks the Larson family to be her hosts. Liz Larson (Dove Cameron) is less than happy her mother (Rachael Harris) opens their home to a stranger. When she meets Megan, she’s even more embarrassed by their guest who seems to know nothing about their peer group’s culture. As Megan struggles to fit in – and make friends with the cute guys she meets, she finds her experience living as normal nothing she expected, and everything she wanted.
Though this film has more crude humor than anticipated of a PG13 teen comedy, I thought it was 100% charming. Part of this could have to do with Hailee Steinfeld headlining. Her exuberance for each of the roles she plays, whether it’s that of an enthusiastic, bubbly teenager (the hilarious bit involving her binge-watching 90s teen flicks is fantastic as is her reliance on that “education”); or a staid, more mature character (3 Days to Kill or True Grit), her acting never ceases to amaze. The banter between her and Liz is fantastic. I enjoy their reluctant friendship, and the eventual mutual respect they have for one another. Really, everyone is terrific in their respective roles. Having seen Rachael in Suits, it’s an unexpected treat to see her in a vastly different role; Liz’s brother, Parker also has some great quips.‘BARELY LETHAL’ (2015) #FWarchives Click To Tweet
Though the script approaches everything in humor, this isn’t the kind of film everyone will like. For those it’s not a good fit for, there’s a moral line that’s sometimes questionable. Until the entire story wraps, we’re never quite sure what Hardman’s purpose is. Is he really up to nefarious business or is he the big softie Megan thinks he is? It’s these questions that keep us in a perpetual guessing game while still having an inkling everything that needs to turn out well will. In the script’s pursuit to be funny, some of the scenes do falter and wander into the dreaded slapstick arena. There is a time and place for that type of humor, but I didn’t feel like this story needed it nor did it utilize it well. Especially considering most of the scenes are recycled “concepts” (i.e., girls fighting over a guy) that are worn out.
In spite of some flubs, Barely Lethal is darling and tons of fun. The opening credit sequence was cute, and the assortment of emotions the story hits and successfully captures is sweet. The story manages to be adequately charming because of Megan’s character. The story’s pace gives Megan time to forge bonds and meaningful relationships which is where the heart of the story lies. Those of you who like this sort of genre (think Agent Cody Banks), will enjoy this on a lazy afternoon.
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You can find Barely Lethal digitally on Amazon Video
Content: there is some crude humor, including a running joke about a place that rhymes with female anatomy. There
is a wild teen party which involves a young girl drinking; someone also draws a male anatomy rendering on her cheek. There is some mild profanity and other sexual innuendoes. The film is PG13.