Twelve Things about So Undercover
12. Miley Cyrus may seem really lost these days, but there was one shining B-movie moment in 2012 when she clearly knew her way. Although her most famous role may always be Disney's pop princess Hannah Montana, I think that her portrayal of street-smart-tough-girl-turned-undercover-agent Molly marks the best acting she has ever done.
11. So Undercover is one of the latest entries in a long line of Cinderella adaptations--one which understands that modern girls don't change their lives at balls, but at colleges. And if you never saw why the stepmother's barring Cinderella's way to the ball was an act not just of cruelty but also of socioeconomic sabotage, then surely you do now.
And while you have Cinderella on your mind, I'd like to announce that I have a pair of shoes almost exactly the ones Miley is wearing in that poster. I'm also really cute in them. Like, totally. I mean, like totes.
10. While a faerie godmother may be relied upon to provide a dress, shoes and transport, it seems to take a faerie godfather to cover college tuition. (I'm not surprised. Are you?) Indeed, it is a man who swoops in out of nowhere to tell a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that she has a shot at no less than Tulane University. But being an FBI agent, he is not just giving her a break, but also giving her a mission. As it involves infiltrating a sorority of pretty girly girls, Molly will also need a makeover. Does this all sound familiar yet? ;-)
9. Substitute a beauty pageant for a sorority, and you have the hit movie Miss Congeniality. I also enjoyed that Sandra Bullock vehicle very much when it came out (and wouldn't mind watching it again); but it wasn't until I saw So Undercover that I realised how badly cast the otherwise adorable Miss Bullock was as Gracie Hart. In what is essentially the same role, Miss Cyrus mops the floor with her. Twice.
8. Okay, I'll grant that the "world peace" scene is superior to the "pearl-white Bentley" scene . . . but that's less due to acting than to Miss Congeniality having the better script.
7. I've actually been wanting to write about these two movies since I explored the Pretty Blonde Girl archetype a couple of months ago, because Molly and Gracie are great heroines who don't fit that trope. Unlike their PGB sisters, they are clearly competent. But also unlike the PBGs, they don't put much effort into their appearance and probably think very little of women who do. (This last part is not necessarily a virtue.) I'm just not sure what to call them. Tomboyish Brunette Girls?
6. Another thing to note about a TBG is that she often competes with men and beats them at their own game. (She is only out of her depth when it comes to girly stuff.) There are numerous examples in So Undercover, but the most revealing one may be Molly's chosen profession before she becomes a college girl. She is hired by unhappy wives to follow their husbands and to bring back photo evidence of adultery. Molly doesn't just show up the men in her life, but will also show up the men in other women's lives. This doubles as a "Women Helping Other Women" thing, so that's two tropes in one plot point!
5. Of course, if you're going to be about Women Helping Other Women, then you can't give Cinderella a truly wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters. This is why Molly's father never remarries after her mother's death, the sorority members are very pretty, and the happy ending requires everyone to collaborate.
On the other hand, your Cinderella figure's father may remain weak and ineffectual without hurting the agenda. Which is exactly how it plays out here.
4. Now, I've been on the lookout for girls as Action leads ever since The Last Psychiatrist blog called it "the next phase in the evolution of movies." Yes, girls--not women. The first example I blogged about was Mei from Safe. (What is it with these girls having only first names?)
If Mei doesn't immediately strike you as a TBG, that's because she's more likely to beat all the boys in Maths class than to beat them up in the playground. But that just makes her an interesting variation of the same. Any dark-haired girl who can help to take down the (apparent) all-boys' club that is New York's Triad society has solid TBG cred.
If you'd like to do your own search for girl Action stars, remember that they are always foils to down-on-their-luck and/or downright villainous father figures. (So Undercover has both types.) This is essential, but I won't get into the reason just yet.
3. Perhaps the weakest link in So Undercover is the sorority itself. This was disappointing. Despite the fun beginning in which the expected stereotypes were played up in song . . .
. . . the payoff is weak. =( Perhaps the laughs didn't all have to be that shallow, but then again, this isn't an ensemble drama any more than Cinderella was.
2. I do like that something is made of the New Orleans setting. There are some great atmospheric scenes in the French Quarter, on street cars and in the bayou, and there are nods to jazz, crawfish and gators! But I'll leave the final judgment to someone who has lived in NOLA. =)
1. Finally, yes, there is a charming prince in our story. I mean, how could there not be? He's also the least interesting male character in the whole movie! =P I crushed harder for Molly's professor, and I can't even remember what class he taught.
Image Sources: a) So Undercover poster, b) Miss Congeniality poster, c) Mei from Safe