There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Like clockwork, it seems, every five years a film comes along to lay claim to the hearts of teenage girls and gay men everywhere. In 1995, it was Clueless. In 2000, Bring It On. And now we have D.E.B.S., a camp sendup of chick action flicks and teen comedies that lustily grabs the spirit stick but—oops!—drops it. The debut feature from writer-director Angela Robinson follows four high-school girls in an elite government spy unit, D.E.B.S. (It stands for, duh, “discipline, energy, beauty, strength.”) Helmed by the overachieving Amy (Sara Foster), the Britney-skirt-wearing, Uzi-toting squad must root out notorious Lucy Diamond (The Fast and the Furious’ Jordana Brewster). But when the D.E.B.S. come face to face with the fearsome killer/thief—think Kate Jackson in a Jennifer Garner wig—the villain shows more interest in smooching Amy than in snuffing her. Indeed, Lucy’s plans for global domination soon take a back seat to her goal of, well, getting Amy in the back seat. And here’s where D.E.B.S. confronts an awkward identity crisis: Will it stick to being a send-up of girlish cinematic staples, or does it aspire to become a sweet girl-meets-girl/shoots-girl/falls-for-girl love story? Robinson can’t quite decide, and so we’re left with a not-quite-dead-on satire and a not-quite-affecting love story. Watching D.E.B.S., you get the feeling that the director should have just left the project in its original form: as an 11-minute short. The film does have some bright moments, however, including a terrific comic performance from Holland Taylor (of TV’s The Practice) as the D.E.B.S.’ zealous headmistress. She steals every scene she’s in, including the one in which she mocks the impressionable Amy for having fallen for Lucy: “‘Let’s divert federal resources and man hours so I can have my experimental collegiate lesbian fling!’” If only she were enough to create a new camp classic. As things are, our girl D.E.B.S. fails to fit the bill. Like Sally Field, she’s someone we want to like—really, really want to like. But in the end, we think she’s just OK. —Mario Correa