Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
D.E.B.S., The Ring Two
3-23-05 Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.
Lesbian screenwriter and director Angela Robinson aims high with her first movie, the comic spy spoof D.E.B.S.
and delivers an assured debut that’s as zippy as the dark blue VW Beetle the teen crime fighters of the title zoom
around in. A gay romance disguised as a black comedy, Robinson’s film combines several disparate genres: action,
teen romance and queer cinema. The resulting hybrid, a sort of cross between Charlie’s Angels, But I’m A
Cheerleader and multiple teen flicks, might not completely satisfy any of these audiences (it skimps on the Chop-
Socky and there’s no Natasha Lyonne-Clea DuVall sex scene to be seen). But it’s a tasty little snack pack of a
movie, nevertheless, that offers plenty of laughs, lots of great sight gags and some sharp observations of teen
behavior – all delivered in just over 90 minutes.
The D.E.B.S. (and I was never quite sure what that was short for) are an elite squad of young ladies who have
been recruited for a top secret government agency, a sort of finishing school for spies. Naturally, this agency
requires the comely young lassies to wear the shortest of skirts, live together in a big Victorian mansion, sorority
style, and attend D.E.B.S. Academy.
We learn all this in the movie’s fast paced opening as the lead characters are called to an emergency meeting with
the Academy’s President (Michael Clarke Duncan). There’s Amy (Sara Foster) the blonde, who’s just broken up
with her square-jawed hunky boyfriend, Dominique (Devon Aoki), who’s French (so naturally she smokes
constantly and is a tart), Max (Meagan Good), the intense leader of the squad who’s all business (and a dead
ringer for Vivica A. Fox), and Janet (Jill Ritchie), the newbie who has yet to earn her stripes (and keeps her gun
stashed in her teddy bear). At the meeting the headmistress of the Academy (Holland Taylor in yet another of her
frosty bitch goddess roles), informs them that the dreaded arch villain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster – a young
Demi Moore look-a-like) has resurfaced for a meeting with Russian assassin Ninotchka (Jessica Cauffiel in a funny,
over the top bit) and it’s up to the D.E.B.S. to get her.
We quickly learn that Lucy Diamond is being set up on a blind date with Ninotchka (who sports some serious
cleavage) by her loyal henchman, Scud (Jimmi Simpson), who later forms an attachment with Janet (though I
think a sequel will find him finding true love with a nice young boy). Naturally, the stake out goes awry and as the
bullets fly overhead, the course of True Love is set in motion. It’s Romy and Juliet from that point out with comedic
action sequences and music montages tossed in on the road to Happily Ever After. Robinson’s hot soundtrack
varies from the typical teen wall of rock guitars, however, and happily mirrors the action on the screen for once (I
especially loved her use of The Cure’s “Love Cats” as a courtship song for the two lady loves). In true sitcom
style, various subplots (Will Janet win her stripes? Will Max get leadership of the squad back?) add nice diversion
from the fairy tale romance.
The scenic design of D.E.B.S. which takes off from the dark blue, black and white plaid school girl skirts, beautifully
backdrops the movie and places the luscious cast in beautiful shadowboxes, giving the scenes a dark gleam that’s
an interesting contrast to the expected hot, bright colors of most spy spoofs. Though the spy parody stuff seems to
disappear after the opening scenes, I didn’t mind veering off in another direction as, let’s face it, the Austin Powers
movies have exhausted the genre (I wish the long announced Rupert Everett gay spy 007 parody had happened,
Robinson has announced that she wants to make blockbuster movies and D.E.B.S. is certainly a good start toward
that goal (it also nicely paves the way for her major studio comedy, Herbie: Fully Loaded, out from Disney this
summer). She’s quickly gone from a $3 million dollar budget here to $70 million for Herbie. I hope they give her
$200 million and she decides to do a big gay blockbuster hybrid. Maybe even Rupert Everett could play one of the
Samara, the evil, dead little girl with the Crystal Gayle hair is back in The Ring Two. So is ace reporter Rachel
Keller (Naomi Watts), Aidan (David Dorfman), her mostly somnambulant kid with the dark circles under his eyes,
and a couple of teens who need to watch that tape before time is up and Samara gets them.
The Ring was a genuinely unnerving experience – mainly because it quickly dispensed with the tired formulas of
the standard issue teen horror picture and settled into a suspense mystery that actually had moments of mystery
and suspense. The outcome was never in doubt, but how it got there, like all good mysteries, was – and Watts was
allowed to show intelligence, spirit, and a few character flaws (like being less than a perfect mother).
In the sequel, however, Rachel’s shifted into full tilt mommy mode and when she and Aidan are once again
inevitably plagued by the nasty Samara, she’s not given a chance to use her intelligence until much too late in the
game. The picture’s mostly a water logged (literally) mess of special effects taking the place of a good mystery
story. Many new characters and plots are tossed into this raging flood of effects and are just as quickly washed
away. It is not a surprise nor a disservice, therefore, to relate that you will once again find yourself at the bottom
of the well with that little trouble maker. Nor will it be a surprise to learn that everyone connected with this movie
has gone to that particular well once too often, not least of which is the audience.
Charlie's Teen Angels and Satan's Little Helper