You know, I’m sure Miley Cyrus isn’t an actively bad person. But why does she insist upon being in films like this? She’s already done LOL this year. You would have thought her nonsense quota was already full up. “Billy Ray, my Dreadful-Tripe-O-Meter is going into overdrive! What do I do papa? WHAT DO I DO?” “Well shucks Miley, you done got yourself in a peck o’ trouble. You’ll have to make things right by starring in the film So Undercover“. The weird thing is, I used to have a very high tolerance for this kind of film. Somehow, though, midway through watching So Undercover (it offends my fingers having to type that title) it occurred to me that maybe, in the immortal words of Roger Murtaugh, I’m getting too old for this shit.
Molly (Cyrus) is a tomboy private investigator with a nice bald dad (Mike O’Malley). She spends her days clambering over rooftops and breaking into hotel rooms to get incriminating snaps of cheating husbands and dodgy senators. That is until an FBI agent by the name of Armon (Piven) approaches her with an proposition: he’ll pay her a lump of cash – needed because of her dad’s convenient gambling addiction – if she goes undercover at a sorority house to keep an eye on the daughter of a witness in a big case. Armon suspects that this girl is harbouring information and could be bumped off by the mob pretty soon. Molly agrees to do the case at which point she has a sorority girl makeover, gets the keys to a brand new Volkswagen Eos (there is a LOT of product placement in this film) and heads off to college. Thrown into the mix for good measure are suspicious Stepford-Wife-alike sorority sister Sasha, suspicious sexy man Nicholas, suspicious lecturer Professor Talloway and, of course, Kelly Osbourne.
Objectively, it’s not a disastrous plot, it’s just extremely lighthearted. The premise of So Undercover lends itself perfectly to a film aimed at teeny-bopper girls. The only problem is, Tom Vaughan’s film just doesn’t deliver on the fun. Say what you want about chubby-cheeked teen comedienne Amanda Bynes, but she was always one to throw herself fully into a role. And really, Cyrus – Bynes’ natural successor – doesn’t measure up. Cyrus has a vague grasp of comic timing but none of the joyful, energetic lack of inhibition needed to pull off such a role.
Not only that, but she struggles – somewhat unsurprisingly – with making herself convincing as the “street-smart” PI. Obviously it’s a ridiculous role in the first place (why is this teenage girl a PI? WHY?) but there’s an embarrassing gaucheness about the way in which Cyrus stomps around, frowning, clutching her gun and reeling off lines about jujitsu and contingency plans. There are genuinely some moments here when Cyrus is given a run of long words to say all in one go and physically struggles to get them out of her mouth.
What’s more, the barely functioning plot of So Undercover only holds together because all the characters consistently behave in illogical ways. The main thing is: why doesn’t the mob just kidnap this witness girl? Or kill her? Why don’t they kill everyone? Wouldn’t that make more sense? None of the decisions people make in this film are the right decisions. Surely giving Miley Cyrus a makeover and sending her into a sorority house to go undercover is never your BEST PLAN. The point is, by the time the limp, anti-climactic ending rolls around it’s very hard to care about what happens to any of these people because they’ve all been walking around acting like big idiots for the past hour.
So, on second thoughts, no I don’t think I’m getting too old for this shit. So Undercover, never truly uproarious, never truly sweet, never truly surprising, is a disappointingly cynical, lazy imitation of the films that have gone before it. Don’t settle for this, teen girls of the world. If you’re at a loose end, go and watch Miss Congeniality. Or at the very least, She’s The Man. Channing Tatum‘s in it, you know.