‘So Undercover’ Reviews

8 12 2012

OMG. She’s, like, so undercover. Miley Cyrus’s transition from music to movie star continues apace with this rather formulaic romp. While the movie might be crap, the truth is Cyrus comes out on top and shows she has a future in fronting teenybopper movies for some time yet.

Cyrus plays a teenage private investigator who, used to snooping on cheating husbands, graduates to the big leagues when Jeremy Piven’s FBI agent asks her to go undercover at the local college. Her mission is to infiltrate a sorority to protect the daughter of a mobster (McKnight) who may or may not have evidence that can put a mob boss away. Or something like that. But the potential killer could be anyone and some serious poking about is needed to uncover the imposter.

From the off it’s all rather obvious who the imposter is and there isn’t enough fun and games to distract from the inevitably of it all. The romance with Joshua Bowman is tossed in for the sake of it and Cyrus’s ward, McKnight, might as well not exist. Honestly, when something happens to a girl called Alex midway through, I had no idea that Alex was the girl Cyrus was meant to protect. Roommate Kelly Osbourne shows up every so often with the worst English accent for some time. With a Brummy dad in Ozzy, Kelly opts for a toff Chelsea lilt. But in some scenes it looks like her lines have been dubbed by someone else. So how much is her and how much is the voiceover? And how bad was her original stab?

But So Undercover surprisingly throws up the odd funny moment. When told her name will be Brooke Stonebridge, Cyrus reckons it sounds more like a gated community than a name; the ditsy Cotton’s (Megan Park) stupidity gets the sniggers it’s after; and Bowman has one of the lines of the year: when told the French can be forgiven, he comes back with ‘tell that to the Algerians!’ What? Where did that come from?

Cyrus herself is immune to the crap. She’s watchable, and not just a substitute for Amanda Bynes.


Miley Cyrus gets to play on her genuine perky charm and solid sense of comedy timing

As a transitional film aimed at helping singer-actress Miley Cyrus make the move from teen icon from her Hannah Montana television series to fully-fledged adult film star the fan-friendly So Undercover only manages to work on a very limited level. It is amiable and accessible enough for her core audience who have grown with Cyrus and followed her career in TV/music/tabloids, though not unique enough to find an audience who don’t buy into her perky and cheerful charms.

The film gets a release in the UK and a smattering of other European territories pre-Christmas, though goes the straight-to-DVD route in the US, where it is set to debut in early February. With a festive box office dominated by the last Twilight film, Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it seems unlikely that So Undercover will make much of a dent at the UK box office, though stronger home entertainment figures would seem probable.

Miley Cyrus, now aged 20, remains an engagingly feisty personality and brings a good deal of charisma to her rather clichéd role. But while the film is very much a by-the-numbers ‘going undercover’ story much used in film and television for years, she does at least get the chance to fight bad guys, wield a gun, kiss a boy and frolic in her underwear in a mildly suggestive manner. There is no bad language or overt sexuality to shock her fan-base, but So Undercover does help her move into the young adult role category.

The film’s premise that she is a street-smart, tough-as-nails, private eye may be a dramatic leap too far (in truth her character Molly takes photographs for her investigator father, though the opening scene sees her involved in a little action as she has to escape a man she is snapping), but this is just a set-up so she can be approached by an FBI agent (Jeremy Piven, who delivers his exposition dialogue with a straight face and also brings his familiar innate charm) with an offer.

He wants her to go undercover within a college sorority so she can protect one of the college girls who holds some vital information which will be used at a trial where her father is about to turn state’s evidence and testify against the mob. It is all rather clumsily set-up, but the main device is to turn gritty biker-chick Molly into a dress-wearing sorority girl (now named Brook) who can fit in with the materialistic sisterhood. Cue an extended section where she gets a full makeover and has to learn the lingo of college life.

There are some mildly amusing fun-and-games as Molly/Brook has to try and get on with her new sorority friends (such as dressing up as a red lobster to sell toys and hanging out at a pyjama/pool party) with Cyrus entering into things with a game enthusiasm. These scenes – so familiar to any regular watchers of college comedies – are gently entertaining and at least allow Cyrus to play on her genuine perky charm and solid sense of comedy timing, but also help to emphasise how plodding the whole crime subplot is.

Kelly Osbourne – daughter of rocker Ozzy and host of E!’s series Fashion Police – makes an unlikely roommate for Cyrus’s character (Osbourne, now 28, looks a tad too old to play a college girl), though at least offers some dry cynicism in amongst the pink fluffiness of the other characters. Joshua Bowman (from TV series Revenge) has the thankless role of the sweet student who aims to romance Cyrus, though Megan Park perhaps has the most fun as the super-dumb Cotton.


Miley Cyrus made a name for herself on the small screen in the dual role of Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana, and she’s pulling double time again in comedy So Undercover. Here, riffing on Miss Congeniality, Cyrus plays Molly, a teen working as a private eye to cover her dad’s gambling debts. Her skills at photographing cheating spouses catch the eye of FBI agent Armon (Jeremy Piven), who hires her to go undercover at a sorority to protect a girl whose father is about to testify against mobsters.

In a whirlwind makeover by a camp hair stylist and hipster fashionista (both, bizarrely, on the FBI payroll!) she’s remade as Brooke Stonebridge, the latest inductee to Kappa Kappa Zeta house. Her sisters include Alex (Lauren McKnight), the girl Molly has to survey, entitled princess Sasha (Eloise Mumford) and smart-mouthed roommate Becky (Kelly Osbourne). Outside of the girls’ house, there’s a love interest for Molly in the form of Revenge’s Josh Bowman.

Billed as an action-comedy, So Undercover suffers by virtue of having little in the way of action set-pieces, and even less when it comes to laughs. Excruciating phrases like “amazeballs” are thrown around with gleeful abandon as the movie casually chugs along hitting every clichéd plot twist going.

Cyrus plays the lead as a tough cookie teen, injecting a little artificial ditziness to her college-going alter ego. Outside of that and her more fashionable attire, though, there’s barely a difference between the two personas.

It’s hardly an acting stretch for the leading lady, who’s yet to really test herself since waving goodbye to her signature Hannah Montana role.

So Undercover also struggles by trying to serve Cyrus’s tween fans while attempting to be a bit edgy. The film’s perky, bubblegum tone gets an abrupt shake with few swear words, while a gag at the expense of the French – the only one in the film that’s vaguely amusing – will likely fly over the heads of the target audience.

That the movie is slated for a straight-to-DVD release in the US next year is probably indicative of its cinematic potential. It all feels a little bit sitcommy. From the by-the-numbers direction to the strained one-liners, everything about it feels small screen. The punky, rebellious streak Cyrus has shown by losing her locks is nowhere to be found in So Undercover, an unadventurous vehicle that’s in desperate need of some original wit and spark.


The working title for Miley Cyrus’s latest outing was ‘I’m, Like, Sooo Undercover’ until someone surely decided it sounded too obnoxious even for her fanbase. Given that the film is now headed straight to DVD in the US, perhaps the studio shouldn’t have held back: if anything, this anodyne ‘Miss Congeniality’ rip-off could use more bratty fizz. The ageless tween-pop star – she recently exited her teens, but still seems 13 going on 50 – is at least on sparkier form than she was in ‘LOL’ earlier this year. Still, as a tomboyish private eye drafted by a shadowy FBI agent (Jeremy Piven) to infiltrate a super-girly college sorority and protect a witness’s daughter, she’s miscast: where we might believe Sandra Bullock as a tough-talkin’ gal more threatened by lip-gloss than a gun, Cyrus seems to be playing dress-up when she dons the biker gear that is supposedly her second skin. Not-especially-high high jinks ensue. Kelly Osbourne is on hand as a feisty roommate, presumably to make Miley look more appealing by comparison.


The last role you’d expect from Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus now resembling a well-fed Suzi Quatro) is that of a street-smart gumshoe tracking cheating partners with a long lens.

And for the first few scenes of this easy-going comedy it really feels too much of an ask for the young actress who made gazillions warbling about a Party in the USA and living down the fact she was the daughter of the bloke who inflicted Achy Breaky Heart on the world.

So it’s with some relief when Jeremy Piven’s FBI spook persuades her to infiltrate a fancy-dan sorority house which means a complete makeover courtesy of a fashion idiot and the plump American equivalent of Gok Wan.

She’s to protect Alex (McKnight, who looks like Cher before she was remodelled by Mattel), the daughter of a supergrass who’s about to turn state’s evidence and testify against the mob.

But first she’s got to blend in with the rich girls of Kappa Kappa Zeta, a sort of junior version of the Playboy Mansion minus the implants, the sex and an octogenarian lecher in a dressing gown.

Predictably, they’re a bitchy bunch – which is where most of the laughs come – but there is some welcome relief from wearisome materialism from Kelly Osbourne’s mouthy room-mate, whom we could have done with more of.

The humour is aimed squarely at petulant teens although some gags seem to belong to another film altogether. “Maybe the French deserve a chance,” says Molly only for her love interest to reply “Tell that to the Algerians.” It’s a bit like hearing a knob gag in a Michael Haneke film.

It’s target audience will lap it up…but the rest of us will be searching for deep cover.


As Miley Cyrus vehicles go, this is entirely watchable fluff, enlivened by likeable performances and some decent one-liners.

What’s it all about?
Directed by Tom Vaughan, So Undercover stars Miley Cyrus as Molly, a tough, street-smart, motorbike-loving private eye (stop sniggering at the back there) who’s drafted by shady FBI agent Armon (Jeremy Piven) and asked to go undercover in a college sorority in order to protect the daughter (Lauren McKnight as Alex) of an important witness. Aside from trying to fit in without blowing her cover, Molly also has to try and figure out which of Alex’s close acquaintances might be working for the enemy. But is it the professor (Gossip Girl’s Matthew Settle) who seems to be taking a keen interest in her, snooty sorority queen bee Taylor (Alexis Knapp) or her hunky platonic male friend Nicholas (Revenge’s Joshua Bowman)?

The Good
Cyrus is an appealing screen presence and has a nice line in witty self-deprecation that serves her well; to that end, it doesn’t really matter than she’s less than convincing as a street-smart private eye, though it is admittedly amusing to imagine her many fans deciding to go into the detection game as a result of this film. There’s also strong work from a likeable supporting cast that includes Jeremy Piven (on top snarky form, as befits his post-Entourage screen persona), Kelly Osbourne (as a fellow fish-out-of-water at the sorority), Alexis Knapp (channelling Kim Cattrall) and Megan Park, who steals every scene she’s in with some impeccable comic timing as ditzy sorority sister Cotton.

It’s fair to say that not all the jokes work, but the script has several decent lines and there are a number of amusing small moments, such as Miley casually punching an annoying partygoer in the face while in conversation. The film is also commendably aware of the subtle messages it wants to send to its audience, for example, there’s a minor, but notable sub-plot involving ditzy Cotton realising that her verbally abusive, no-good (but rich and good-looking) boyfriend is a wrong’un.

The Bad
The film’s biggest problem is that there’s never much of a sense of danger, so the thriller elements don’t really work, though it does at least pull off a couple of surprises, even if certain other elements of the finale are predictable. On top of that, there’s very little chemistry between Cyrus and Bowman (who seems to specialise in playing blank-faced hunks who don’t know about their love interest’s secret lives), so the romance doesn’t quite work either, though she does chain him to a radiator at one point, which probably counts as quite risqué for a Miley Cyrus movie.

Worth seeing?
Despite going straight to DVD in the States (never a good sign), So Undercover is entirely watchable fluff that should play well to its target audience of Miley Cyrus fans.

More reviews UNDER


Films in brief: So Undercover

So Undercover
12A cert, 94 min
Two stars

Miley Cyrus might turn into a real actress one day – there’s a Jane Fonda-ish tough kitten lurking beneath her bubblegum appeal, even in this teen-marketed spin on Mean Girls. She’s a private eye – bear with it – who enrolls in a sorority house at the FBI’s behest. Kelly Osbourne’s peculiar turn as her sassy roommate doesn’t up the fizz. TR


This week’s heat film reviews: So Undercover

Starring: Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Piven, Josh Bowman

Director: Tom Vaughan (CERT 12, 94 minutes)

The plot: Molly (Cyrus) is a tomboy private investigator who catches cheating spouses. But when she’s approached by an FBI agent (Piven), she’s given a ditzy makeover and sent to a university sorority to go, like, so undercover and protect one of the sisters from a baddie.

What’s right with it? The outfits, hot man (Bowman), and young “totes amazeballs” lingo will please her tween fans, and real-life BFF Kelly Osbourne is fun as Molly’s surly roommate.

What’s wrong with it? The FBI plot is clunky, and you’ll be rolling your eyes as the sorority sisters hang out in just their underwear.

Verdict: It’s a mix of Miss Congeniality and Mean Girls, but the unconvincing scrapes Molly gets herself into mean that it’s not as good as either. 3/5 @deborah_heat


So Undercover
Directed by Tom Vaughn. Starring Miley Cyrus, Jeremy Piven, Mike O’Malley, Josh Bowman, Kelly Osbourne, Eloise Mumford 12A cert, general release, 94 mins

Molly (Miley Cyrus) is a biker chick and part-time paparazzo helping her dad – a discredited cop with a heap of gambling debts – catch various love rats on the gumshoe beat. She’s so not interested when an FBI agent (Jeremy Piven) offers 50 grand to infiltrate a snooty college sorority and cosy up to the daughter of the Georgian mafia’s accountant. But then dad comes back from the track with a sad face.

Bring on the FBI fashionistas (no, really, they’re here) – it’s time for a girlie makeover. Molly, now restyled as Volkswagon-driving Brooke Stonebridge, is duly instructed to straighten, gloss and say “Amazeballs”. (Amazeballs? Confusingly, the film is not set during the Napoleonic Wars.)

Can “Brooke” pass as the latest inductee to Kappa Kappa Zeta house, befriend the pyjama party set, unravel a major crime syndicate and get the boy? Go, Miley, go.

Tom Vaughn, the Scottish-born director behind TV’s Cold Feet and What Happens in Vegas, attempts to coax the Hannah Montana fanbase toward adulthood with this slight, goofy spy caper. Despite occasional unexpected outbreaks of intelligence – including a good gag about French colonialism and a deconstruction of Nixon’s Rico Act – So Undercover is mostly happy to be post-Disney bubblegum.

Fair enough. As a teen trifle, it’s perfectly fine: the New Orleans backdrop is pretty, Ms Cyrus is charming, and the tone is considerably less jarringly inappropriate than that of Fun Size, another recent chaser of the same demographic.

Still, even with hipper people such as Piven and Kelly Osbourne on staff, this confection is unlikely to woo new blood into the Miley Cyrus coven. A handy actor with impressive comic timing, Cyrus needs to ditch the tween queen baggage if she’s going to stay in movies.

Might we suggest a call to Mike Leigh or Leos Carax? They don’t make films with “So” in the title.




So what’s it about then?

Teen private-eye Molly is hired by the FBI to go undercover in a college sorority – despite the fact she’s happier riding a motorbike in converse than making girlfriends and wearing high heels. Think Miss Congieniality meets Mean Girls.

Anyone good in it?

A pre-haircut Miley Cyrus plays Molly, and oh how we’ve missed her on the big screen. Kelly Osbourne also makes an appearance as Molly’s English roomate, and HOT DAMN HE’S GORGEOUS Joshua Bowman fills the role of ‘love interest.’

If it won any Oscars they would be for…

There’s actually a fairly good twist at the end of the film – and it’s not as predictable as we’d orignally expected. If you’re looking for a cinematic experience with some depth and meaning, this probably isn’t the film for you. If this were a food, it would be candy-floss; sweet, light – but not much substance.

But these bits should have been left on the cutting room floor:

There are some TOE CURLINGLY cringey moments that had us reaching for the sick bucket, and we’d have preferred the film without such a large side order of cheese. The soppy ‘we’re sisters’ scenes for example, were a little overdone.

Topless moments?

DEVASTATINGLY, the hot hot Josh Bowman does not remove his top at any point in this film. It’s probably best you prepare yourselves for that now, actually, because from the minute he appears on screen – you’ll want a glimpse of his nipples. Sigh.

Actual ‘ohmygod I nearly wet myself laughing’ bits?

We’re going to be honest here – we laughed A LOT. There’s hilarious one-liners dropping every 2 minutes, and sorority gal Cotton is comedy gold – even if she is clearly based very heavily on Mean Girl’s Karen.

Molly pointing a gun at the sorority sisters who try to surprise her one night had us chuckling into our popcorn buckets for quite some time too.

Face-covering from fear bits?

Being a private investigator means that Molly finds herself in some pretty sticky situations – and being the absolute wimps that we are, we were a little tense at points. MYSTERIOUS SHADOWS ON WALLS ARE FREAKY AS SH*T, OK? But no, it’s not a scary one.

Notes from the fashion police:

We can’t actually decide which Miley look we like more – the casual jeans and flannel top combo, or some of the ‘sorority-style’ dresses she wears while undercover. It’s a dilemma, people.

After watching this, on the manly-man scale (of Louis Tomlinson – Sylvester Stallone) we felt like: Adam Lambert. He paints his nails but he could still kick our ass.

Overall verdict: 8/10. A funny, feel-good flick that does exactly what it says on the tin.

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One response

25 05 2013

Remarkable! Its in fact awesome article, I have got much clear idea
regarding from this post.

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