Tuesday, June 07, 2005

DVD REVIEW: D.E.B.S.

Premise: "D.E.B.S." is a secret government organization that uses a code hidden in the SAT to recruit beautiful college-age girls as master spies. Under the guise of an elite private academy, the "D.E.B.S." agents carry out their missions in form-fitting "schoolgirl" uniforms (yes, plaid skirts and kneesocks just like your thinking) and battle supervillian Lucy Diamond, who is also a stunning college-aged young lady (didn't ya just know it?) When a raid goes bad, top D.E.B.S. recruit Amy confronts Lucy solo and makes three amazing discoveries: A.) Lucy is a lesbian. B.) So is she. And C.) They've both fallen madly in love at first sight. Heroine and villianess thus begin a secret courtship of covert hanky-panky behind the backs of their innevitably-dissaproving respective "sides."

Having read that premise, what kind of movie are you imagining "D.E.B.S." to be? What sort of audience do you guess it was made for? Surely, based on the above description, and the obvious market appeal for gun-toting lipstick-lesbians in fetishized schoolgirl costumes, you'd be totally within reason to conclude that "D.E.B.S." is softcore porn, another "skinemax" offering from the Seduction Cinema crew with Misty Mundae scissor-kicking her way through another glib spoof of genre film.

You'd be totally within reason to conclude this... but you'd be wrong.

What a delightful little surprise, indeed, that this film is almost a full-fledged opposite-number to the kind of straight-to-DVD masturbatory aide that it's premise would suggest. "D.E.B.S.", instead, unfolds as a sweet-natured PG13 teen comedy. It's "sex" scenes are so innocent and chaste that, were the participants a heterosexual couple, it could easily achieve a PG rating and a rotating spot on the Family Channel with the deletion of a few minor curse words. It's characters may indeed be costumed as objects of male fantasy, but the story they inhabit and the gags strung around it are aimed squarely at girls the approximate age of the heroines, and maybe younger. It's visibly low-budget, and it's "comedy" renders the "Austin Powers" cycle a paragon of subtlety by comparison, yes... but damn if it isn't infectiously smile-inducing.

Equally remarkable alongside the film's eschewing of explicit showiness in it's lesbian romance angle is it's wish-dream lack of concern with the "lesbian" part of the equation: Few of the characters are ever surprised at Amy's outing, and those that are express such as a momentary "huh, how 'bout that?" manner and move on. At no point in the film are we given the indication that anyone is really bothered or even especially interested that Amy's love-interest is another woman, (save for Amy's bewildered former boyfriend, who pronounces the predicament "kinda hot,") the sum-total of their objections are that Lucy Diamond is, y'know, their mortal enemy.

I'm not, you may be aware, usually prone to talking up a movie based on it's possible use a tool of social-benefit, but y'know something... there are a lot of gay teenage girls and young women out there. Many of them are confused and even scared, despite all our much-touted strides toward tolerance, I can't help thinking that they may not exactly be filled with reassurance or confidence at their own normalcy or ability to lead happy lives by, say, the dark nihilism of "Bound," the "lesbo-show-for-the-guys" mentality of "Girls Gone Wild" or the gloomy soap-opera of "The L-Word." (And how do you think young gay males see their futures as "related" by the films of Gregg Araki or David DeCocteau?)

But here is a movie, as frothy and silly as any "normal" romantic comedy, as lighthearted and youth-appropriate as "Legally Blonde" or "Mean Girls," where the lesbian characters are presented as just a cute, more-than-a-little-ditzy couple. There's no lumbering monsters of intolerance to slay, no horrible hateful society to overcome. In the world of "D.E.B.S.," the idea that there could be anything "wrong" with Amy or Lucy's sexual preference just doesn't seem to exist. So yeah, it's a fantasy. But it's a fantasy worth working toward, and it's a fantasy that I'm willing to bet a good number of young women would like to see made real... or at least as real as a jokey movie they can rent. Now, here it is.

Oh... speaking of fantasies made real (and in case you be misled that this film has nothing to offer a male audience) one of the sidekick D.E.B.S. is played by Devon Aoki, late of "Sin City." Miho, "the one with the swords." Yeah, now you remember. Anyway, she's playing a sexaholic recruit who, while Asian, is apparently French and speaks with a "Fringlish" accent.

Yeah, you read right: Asian goddess, schoolgirl uniform, French accent. Guys, if you need to take a minute or two on that one, I understand :)

FINAL RATING: 7/10