25th Mar2013

‘So Undercover’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Piven, Mike O’Malley, Lauren McKnight, Josh Bowman | Written by Steven Pearl, Allan Loeb | Directed by Tom Vaughan

Miley

Molly is a private investigator who works with her father (O’Malley), a former police officer, busting cheating spouses and taking down petty thieves. However, her life unexpectedly changes when she is approached by an FBI agent (Piven) to go undercover in the one place they’re unable to infiltrate – and a world she knows nothing about… A university sorority.

Physically transforming herself from the tough, streetwise investigator, to a very affluent sorority girl Molly has to learn how to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” to keep her cover for her mission: protect the life of sorority sister Alex Patrone (McKnight) whose father plans to testify against some very dangerous Russian mobsters. Surveillance proves nearly impossible for outsider Molly, who struggles to adjust to university culture, her new friends, and her new assignment, which includes Nicholas (Bowman) – a strong, self confident guy who may have taken a piece of Molly’s heart, if only he weren’t possibly the hit man in disguise. With multiple suspects on her list and the trial fast approaching, Molly must navigate a minefield of double crosses as well as the pageantry and chaos of a sorority sister’s social life. Through her journey, Molly must protect Alex while discovering that not everyone is who he or she appears to be – including herself.

Let’s get this out of the way first… Yes, I have a thing for undercover cop flicks; from the classics like Stakeout and its sequel and Schwarzenegger’s comedy Kindergarten Cop to the more recent Nick Cannon flick Underclassman, I love a good undercover cop flick. It was this fascination that initially drew me to So Undercover. But it’s not only the story that had me intrigued,the film also has some interesting behind the scenes talent. Co-writer Steven Pearl also directed one of my favourite DTV action movies, The Substitute 2 and produced the fantastic indie drama Lone Star State of Mind; whilst the films other writer Allan Loeb also penned Wall Street 2, Rock of Ages and the recent underrated comedy Here Comes the Boom. Of course the film’s main draw for most people is Miley Cyrus who, it’s fair to say, hasn’t really set the cinema screen on fire in any of her non-Hannah Montana movie roles and perhaps is now known more for her off-screen “antics” than on… However all that aside, the role of teen-P.I. Molly really fits Cyrus – her real life persona feeding into that of her character and thankfully she really pulls off the badass private investigator, using that same “cheeky” demeanour she gained thousands of fans with on TV to portray the fearless P.I., which in turn really sells the “fish out of water” element of her role come the sorority house.

Of the rest of the cast the true highlight is Megan Park as sorority sister Cotton, a girl who typifies the “blonde bimbo” stereotype yet at the same time is studying chemistry at university. Park manages to make this nice but dim character so completely loveable yet at the same time so completely stupid, really giving it her all in the role – ably supported by a script that gives the character some cracking “one-liners” that almost steal the show! Meanwhile former Entourage star Jeremy Piven is his usual superb self. I can honestly say I have never seen the man give a bad performance, no matter the film – here he manages to convince as a hard as nails FBI agent, whilst (come the films conclusion) he breaks out the laughs ending the movie on a real laugh-out-loud high note.

It’s fair to say So Undercover didn’t set the box-office alight – Cyrus has lost some of her appeal since leaving her most famous role and, as I alluded to in my opening, the story isn’t really anything new. The pacing was slow at times and I thought the movie could have done with a few more laughs, but in the end this is another great example of the genre. Fun, funny and fluffy, the movie doesn’t demand anything of its audience but it is a fantastic way to spend an hour and a half.

So Undercover is released on DVD on April 1st – if you want a Blu-ray you’ll have to import it from the US.

**** 4/5

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