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  • Jared Huizenga

007 Meets 'Mean Girls' in 'Barely Lethal'

Megan Walsh is a trained assassin, skilled in martial arts, espionage and weaponry. But how will she respond when she squares off with the greatest evil she's seen to date? That's right … high school.

Megan (Hailee Steinfeld, “Ender's Game,” “True Grit”), a.k.a. No. 83 , is an orphan, adopted by a secret agency that trains girls to become spies. The girls are trained to fight, shoot, fly, drive, kill and – most importantly – not make personal connections.

After a mission to capture a dangerous arms dealer doesn't go quite as planned, Megan sees a way to have the one and only thing she's ever wanted … to be normal.

She abandons her life as a secret agent for that of a normal teenage girl, complete with friends, a student exchange program family, a complicated love life and a curfew. But will it all blow up in her face when her old life comes back to find her?

Of course her old life comes back to find her. Don't all spies that try to escape the life go through this?

“Barely Lethal” is far from a great movie, but it's not without its charms.

First, I think it goes some place where not many films have gone before. The action heroes and villains here are all females. And not only that, they're teenagers. Oh, sure, they mix in a little of the psychological warfare that makes teenage girls what they are, but by and large the battles are physical in nature.

Second, the cast is actually pretty likable. Steinfeld is joined on screen by Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark, “Game of Thrones”) as her nemesis, Heather, a.k.a. No. 84; Jessica Alba as arms dealer Victoria Knox; Samuel L. Jackson as Hardman (headmaster of the spy school); and Rachel Harris (“The Hangover”) and Dove Cameron (TV's “Liv and Maddie”) as members of the Larsons, Megan's exchange program family.

Where the film runs into minor problems is with a rather thin story, which is entirely expected in a movie like this. For a lot of the film it does a good job of making fun of the cliches of movies featuring teenage girls, but then it seemingly falls back on them instead of developing more originality and depth in the storytelling.

But at the end of the day it remains light and fun through much of its roughly 90 minutes. It's far from perfect, but it's far from flawed.

“Barely Lethal” is now playing exclusively at the AMC 16 Inver Grove Heights, select theaters throughout the U.S. and is available on Video on Demand.

★★ 1/2 of ★★★★★

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