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Barely Lethal - Needed More Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Alba

Matthew Parkinson | 30 May 2015 16:00
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Directed by Kyle Newman. Produced by John Cheng, Sukee Chew, Vanessa Coifman, Ted Hartley, and Brett Ratner. Written by John D'Arco. Release date: May 29, 2015.


It may not be a new phenomenon - in fact, I'm fairly certain it isn't - but I'm becoming increasingly irritated by movies deciding that it's a good idea to mention other, better movies while they're playing. Take Barely Lethal, for example, which makes reference to both Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club. Whenever one of these references pops up, I began to reminisce about those movies, and wondered why I was wasting my time watching Barely Lethal when I could be re-watching either of those superior high school movies.

The plot, which is essentially straight out of Kick-Ass 2, sees a teenage girl, Agent 83 (Hailee Steinfeld), who has been trained as an assassin for her entire life, faking her own death in order to become a foreign exchange student and become a "normal" teenager. She adopts the name "Megan" and begins trying to fit in at the high school - except that she has been trained as an assassin for her entire life and therefore isn't exactly adept at acting like a typical teenage girl.

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The idea here is that she's an outcast, so the film can make its observations about adolescence: "Normal" life isn't so easy, high school movie clich├ęs exist for a reason, nice people are more important than cool people - and really not a whole lot else. This isn't a smart movie or even a particularly clever one. Everything it has to offer has been seen in better movies, like the ones it references. Why should you watch Barely Lethal when The Breakfast Club and Mean Girls exist?

The reason, the film hopes, is that you don't get a whole lot of action scenes in those ones. Truth be told, you don't get many in Barely Lethal, either. There's one close to the beginning, and then sprinklings scattered throughout, but the high school portion of the movie takes up a much larger chunk than the assassin part. And because any scene taking place in and around high school is about as original as a simulator game in 2015, that means the majority of the movie isn't interesting, smart, or entertaining.

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