D.E.B.S. is an American film from 2004, although it’s based off of a shorter film that aired at their Sundance festival in 2003. It was written and directed by Angela Robinson. It’s basically a romantic comedy spy film. I don’t normally care for American romantic comedies but this one came recommended by someone who also does not generally care for those films. So, let’s have a look.
The D.E.B.S. are a top secret spy organisation that recruits suitable operatives based off of their abilities as measured by a hidden portion of the SAT. Our main group is made up of Max- the driven leader, Amy- the trainee who got a perfect score on the hidden test, Janet- who just really wants to graduate & Dominique- she’s haughty and French. That’s a combination we’ve never seen before. These four are close to graduating when they get a mission. Lucy Diamond, notorious criminal mastermind, is going to be meeting with a Russian assassin and they’re supposed to go and find out what’s happening. So, they find themselves eavesdropping on the meeting and, eventually, in pursuit of Lucy. Amy gets separated from the others and meets her. After a pretty ridiculous introduction filled with romantic tension, Lucy escapes, making Amy the only agent who’s ever survived an encounter with her.
Let’s start with what I didn’t like about the narrative. Which is, surprisingly, sparse. The only thing I really didn’t care that much for is the way Lucy initially pursues Amy. Which, to be fair, is kind of a necessary evil since they are on opposite sides and abducting her to take her out is probably the least gross thing that Robinson could’ve used to kick start a healthier relationship for the two of them without doing something super convoluted or just nonsensical. Seriously though, don’t take courting lessons from Act 1 Lucy.
Now, for the positives. First of all, this film is really funny. Its comedic elements and parodies of the spy genre are very well done. The stakeout scene is absolutely hilarious. The high-tech gizmos that are flashy but not all that effective at what they’re designed for work really well for parody purposes. They even take a more subdued approach and make them less effective than a simpler, lower tech solution without making them over the top terrible. Which I can appreciate. Once it gets going Amy & Lucy’s relationship very quickly becomes adorable. Overall, the film is just very lively, fun and enjoyable.
I was actually a bit surprised by how strong some of the characters are. Yeah, a lot of the characters in this film are the kind of shallow but enjoyable comedic characters you get in a lot of comedies. But then you’ve got the characters who get layers as revealed by their relationship dynamics. Lucy & Amy have a good one going. Amy with her friends, Janet & Max. Lucy with her friend/ head minion, Scuds. Those are all relationship dynamics that serve to develop the characters involved and there are some really strong bits of dialogue and unexpected character traits emerging from those interactions.
Cinematography, Visuals & Effects
This film is designed to look a lot like a 1980s spy film. The action scenes resemble what you’d see in one of those. The CG is more advanced, but still looks dated. Honestly, the style works for what the film’s doing and it does contribute to its charm.
Acting & Music
The acting is really good. Jordana Brewster & Sara Foster really sell the chemistry betwixt their characters. There are also some good performances from Michael Clarke Duncan, Holland Taylor, Jimmi Simpson, Jill Ritchie & Meagan Good. The soundtrack has some really good songs & Steven M. Stern’s score contributes to that.
I’ll be honest, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. The romance starts out a bit suspect, but quickly becomes really good. The acting is well done. The comedic elements largely work well, resulting in some very funny moments. It’s a film that’s a lot of fun to watch. If you want a light-hearted parody of spy films with a kind of cutesy lesbian romance at its core, this is the film for you/ For myself, I give it a very solid 8/10.