While bored and searching for a movie to watch I stumbled upon Barely Lethal. It attracted me with its cast, which includes Oscar-winner Hailee Steinfeld, Sophie Turner, and Samuel L. Jackson. I was hoping for a hidden gem, which I didn't find, but it did relieve my boredom for an hour and a half.
Steinfeld plays 83, an orphan raised to be an assassin. However, she'd much rather be an ordinary girl. When she gets a chance, she fakes her death and then attends high school as an exchange student from Canada.
There are good moments in Barely Lethal. There's a running joke about Ke$ha perfume that just gets funnier and more absurd as it goes on. I don't know if it was paid product placement, but it worked. Steve-O makes a hilarious cameo as a torturer who really gets 83, now going by the name Megan Walsh. And Megan's host family has great chemistry with her. I was only familiar with Dove Cameron, who plays the daughter, from an ice-cream video song one of my younger cousins made me watch. But she does a good job building up a sisterly rapport.
Unfortunately, there's lots of clunky moments. 83 gets most of her knowledge from nineties teen films, plus Mean Girls. She seems not to notice that Mean Girls updated a lot of the tropes she follows. She also is shown reading up to date magazines, but seems to take fashion inspiration from the parts of the eighties that aren't currently in style. Also, everyone makes fun of her makeup from her terrible first day of school appearance when the problem is her hair and outfit. It seems like a top spy would be better at researching and blending in. I was up for some lampooning of teen movie tropes, but Barely Lethal was just so awkward about it.
I like Sophie Turner on Game of Thrones, but she seemed rather stiff as 84, who has a one-sided rivalry with 83. Her character is supposed to be icy, but just felt a little off. Maybe it was the American accent they made her do. Jessica Alba's villain is thinly written, but I did appreciate that a former teen actress was cast for the role. It was a nice meta joke. (I liked the casting over all, which mostly has actual teens playing teens. Some of the guys were older.)
Barely Lethal is a cute enough movie to watch in the background or if there's nothing else on. It's mostly family friendly, although there are a few jokes that earn the PG-13 rating. It's just bland, which is a waste of a talented cast.