Movie studios are always on the look out for a new franchise opportunity. Especially if it involves getting that all important teen demographic into the cinema. On paper, the new film Barely Lethal fits the bill. An action movie with a strong female lead and a good supporting cast, including some A list names, is a good start. When it then fails to deliver on a grand scale is a missed opportunity.
Megan (Hailee Steinfeld) has been training to become an assassin for most of her life. Orphaned as a young girl, she was introduced to the government run Prescott Academy run by Hardman (Samuel L Jackson which moulds adolescent girls into killing machines. As she matures she becomes increasingly disillusioned with the life. She wants normality. On an operation to capture arms dealer Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba) she is lost, presumed dead. Megan uses the opportunity to try to have a normal life. She pretends she is an exchange student and moves in with an everyday family. Having studied up on high school life via classic teen movies she feels she is ready for everything.
It is always a pity when a good idea for a movie is not ible to follow through. The premise of the movie was quite promising and it started off well. The audience is introduced to a young Megan and the part that Hartman plays in her life. As an older, wiser agent the scene is set for a for a decent action comedy movie. Unfortunately it falls apart soon after the initial set up. It turns into a cliche riddled teen movie that has all the problems of a knock off of a superior film.
The characters are all underdeveloped and be seen as the usual stereotypes. The fact that Megan points these out to each type she encounters doesn’t make it any funnier. The film wants to be a modern take on a John Hughes film in the same vein as Easy A but it just isn’t clever enough to do so.
It is a mystery why the likes of Samuel L Jackson are even involved in this. He is far better than this film suggests and he has very little to do apart from doing a bit of Shouty Sam Jackson and then, for a change of pace, doing a frustrated Sam Jackson. He must have had his eye on a new house or something as he is clearly only in the film for the pay cheque. It is a similar story with Jessica Alba. She has so little to do it is almost not worth having her in the film.
The impression that comes across is that the film was not properly developed. With a bit more work involving some real character development, the film would have been much better. Even characters with standard tropes can be set up in an interesting way. By following the safe and predictable route the movie feels flat.
Overall, a wasted opportunity. With an interesting premise the film should have been a whole lot better.