- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

Going into “D.E.B.S.,” ostensibly about a quartet of sexy secret agents doubling as plaid-skirted academy girls, I thought I was in for “Agent Cody Banks” for the opposite sex: young women doing espionage, battling split ends and saving the world.

Wow, was I wrong.

Having neglected to look up writer-director Angela Robinson’s work on the trusty Internet Movie Database, I missed her one previous credit — “Chickula: Teenage Vampire,” a 1995 short about a lesbian vampire — which would’ve provided the vital clue.

Just so you don’t end up like the father sitting next to me at a recent screening with his preadolescent daughter, whom he had to escort from the theater about 20 minutes into “D.E.B.S.,” know this: This flick is about a lesbian love affair. And no matter how much it might pain the creators of the PBS bunny Buster, there’s still something icky about homosexuality among teenagers.

There. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, the details: The D.E.B.S. are an elite bunch of college-age girls culled from around the country and selected on the basis of a hidden appraisal within the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Basically, it gauges one’s ability to do the stuff of espionage: lie, cheat, kill, what have you.

Maybe embattled Harvard President Larry Summers can commission a placatory study on why, in this movie’s opinion, girls are better at this kind of thing than boys. That’s the implication, anyway.

The starring quartet of D.E.B.S. lives in a sorority-type house. Each wears her pleated skirt hiked way up to here and has a bagel-sized waistline. Beyond the uniforms, the characters smell of stereotype (all part of the movie’s idea of parody, I gather). Max (Meagan Good) is black, aggressive and in charge. Dominique (Devon Aoki) is a cigarette-puffing French girl and a sex fiend. Janet (Jill Ritchie) is prim, meek and seemingly unable to injure a fingernail.

Then there’s Amy (Sara Foster, “The Big Bounce”) — 5 feet 10, blond, with a figure that could put a tear in a mannequin’s eye. She’s the one who falls for Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster), international archvillain, pouty lesbian and owner of a face that Houdon couldn’t have chiseled any finer.

I guess I should mention that “D.E.B.S.” is pretty terrible in most respects: The action is flat, the computer-generated images are substandard (the D.E.B.S. school administrators are hologrammed in and out of the action about a thousand times too many) and the acting is Saturday-morning-TV grade.

There are a couple of bright spots, namely Jimmi Simpson as Lucy Diamond’s amiable henchman Scud, and journeyman actress Holland Taylor (I remember her great turn as Kathleen Turner’s publisher in “Romancing the Stone”) as the D.E.B.S. academy’s icy headmistress.

Miss Taylor says things like “dangerous Jungian symbiosis” and sounds almost credible. The rest of the movie looks and sounds like field hockey.

Where’s Lucy Liu when you really need her?

**

TITLE: “D.E.B.S.”

RATING: PG-13 (Profanity; strong sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Angela Robinson. Produced by Jasmine Kosovic and Andrea Sperling. Cinematography by M. David Mullen. Original music by Steven Stern.

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes.

WEB SITE: www.sonypictures.com

/movies/d.e.b.s./

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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