It takes an interesting premise and does little with it

by Martin Hafer

The idea behind Barely Lethal is that the government has some sort of top secret program that adopts orphan girls and trains them to be ninja-like assassins. Sounds a bit like Spy Kids and at least the first Spy Kids film was good. So, I went into watching this film with relatively high expectations, especially as it’s billed as a comedy. Plus the boss is played by Samuel L. Jackson … and everyone loves Samuel L. Jackson, right?

There is trouble brewing at this secret agency. Megan (Hailee Steinfeld) is a great little killer but secretly she harbors a dream to be a normal teenage girl. When it looks like she’s been killed on a mission she decides to use this opportunity to disappear and reinvent herself as a high school student so that she can experience a normal life. So why did the film utterly fail for me? Well, the film is billed as a comedy but rarely made me laugh.

Barely Lethal
Directed by
Kyle Newman
Jaime King, Samuel L. Jackson, Madeleine Stack
Release Date
30 April 2015
Martin’s Grade: D+

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A huge infusion of humor really would have helped. It was at times just too serious. Additionally, the film much like any teen film–with the same clich├ęs (such as the nerdy but nice guy she meets but ignores until she finally realizes he’s dreamy…just like I saw in The Duff and several other teen films) and same inappropriate content (such as the hilarious notion of calling one of the characters “Rape-it Ralph” — which is about as funny as jokes about pedophilia or cancer).

The bottom line is that the film started off with an interesting premise and then it just went south for me. In the film’s defense, I am not exactly the target audience but shouldn’t any audience deserve a bit better than a by-the-numbers teen film that promises to be different but really, down deep, isn’t? Plus … Rape-it Ralph?!

The film was just released on DVD this week on Netflix, but I think you could do so much better, such as the great old teen movie Better Off Dead. Now that is a funny and original teen movie!