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So Undercover (2012)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/5/2013
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/27/2013
In the past, I've written about how I breakdown the individuals involved in a movie. I care much more about who's behind the camera than in front of it. Yes, I realize that actors are an important part of the process, but when I see a new movie poster, I always scan for the director and writer first before checking out who the stars are. Having said that, there are, of course, actors whom I like and others which I don't. This can and has affected by attitude towards a movie. Let's face it, no matter how talented a writer or director is, bad casting can ruin a movie. Today's example is So Undercover, a movie which brings little promise to the table, most of which is squashed by its star.
So Undercover introduces us to Molly Morris (Miley Cyrus), a teenager who assists her father, Sam (Mike O'Malley), with his private detective business. She's become quite adept at following targets and photographing them. She's approached by FBI agent Armon Rand (Jeremy Piven) with an offer. Because of her skills, Armon thinks that Molly would be the perfect person to infiltrate a college sorority to keep an eye on the daughter of a witness who has evidence on a mob boss. Molly accepts the job and after a makeover, she emerges as Brook and finds herself living in the Kappa house, looking after Taylor (Alexis Knapp). Molly begins to investigate the other sisters and some others on campus to try and learn who may be a mob plant. But, while doing her investigation, she begins to like college and specifically, a boy named Nicholas (Joshua Bowman). However, when the imposter is revealed, Molly must have her wits about her if she wants to survive.
OK, stop me if you've heard this one. There's a teenaged girl whose single-parent dad is a police officer who has been kicked off of the force and he now runs a private detective agency and he's trained his daughter to work with him and she's a whiz at surveillance. What's that you say? That sounds just likeVeronica Mars to you? All right, what about this? There's a trained operative who is a tough girl who likes to dress down and ride her motorcycle and she's chosen for a mission in which she has to dress up and act vapid and she hates it because it's not who she is and she has a hard time adjusting to this new world. Come again? You're saying that reminds you of Miss Congeniality? So, what you're saying is that the screenplay for So Undercover by Alan Loeb and Steven Pearl is simply a mixture of two other stories and then placed in a college setting? Wow, that's quite an accusation.
All kidding aside, So Undercover will feel very familiar to even the greenest of viewers as it relies heavily on familiar plot devices and stereotypical characters. Between the means girls and the dumb girls and the one cynical girl (played by Kelly Osbourne), the movie covers all of the bases in the sorority house. And then Molly meets Nicholas, the handsome and sensitive guy with the sad backstory. Their meet-cute is the epitome of cliched, as Molly accurately identifies the make, model, and engine style of Nicholas' motorcycle and then has to act as if she doesn't know how she knew all of that. Given that, the final act does contain a few interesting twists and not unlike the recentDeath Race 3: Inferno, So Undercover makes a play to go out on a strong note so that the film doesn't feel like such a stinker.
However, any goodwill the movie can build is eventually brought down by Miley Cyrus. If you've seen her in anything, you know that she's more of a presence than an actual actor. I didn't buy her inThe Last Song, but at least there, she was going for dramatic and toned things down some. Here, she's closer to Hanna Montana mode, playing things very broadly. Cyrus already eyes relatively big eyes, but she likes to make them even bigger when she tells a joke. This isn't helped by the fact that her timing always seems to be off. That aside, it's simply hard to buy her in this role. She doesn't seem genuine as the girl who has to play dumb. I understand that Cyrus is attempting to shake off her Disney roots and try something different, but I don't know if this is the part for her.
So Undercover is certainly a botched film which gets no help from its star and I can't begin to imagine who Jeremy Piven angered to wind up in something like this. I get the feeling that this one has been on the shelf for a while, but it did open in the Middle East before making its home video debut here. One of the biggest questions about the movie is the target audience. It's a bit too PG-13 for Miley's tween fans, but older viewers while find this too trite to enjoy. The game supporting cast and the last minute plot surprises help to keep this movie from being awful, but it's still something which I can't recommend.
So Undercover has more than its fair share of lame sorority speak on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Millennium Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The thing which really stands out about this transfer are the colors, most notably the bright pastels in the sorority house. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, and most shots display good depth. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this track and it's clear that someone put some work into the mix. The stereo effects are noticeable and detailed, and we get a nice response when sounds move from the center to the left or right. The surround sound effects work well in a party scene and for the in-film music. The action scenes provide some mild, but appreciable subwoofer effects.
The So Undercover Blu-ray Disc contains no extra features.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.