Jon’s Movie Review: “Barely Lethal” Is Deadly If Ingested

Barely Lethal

When we’re in high school, we’re told that we can be anything we want. We go through phases like outfit changes, trying on each new attitude, outlook, or personality until one feels right. The potential is limitless, so we’re told. You can be anything you want. With that, there should be a warning attached: just because you can be anything, doesn’t mean you should be everything. That’s a lesson that Barely Legal must have been absent for.

Hailee Steinfeld goes from being in college to entering high school for the first time. Her character, Megan, AKA Agent 83, has been denied this traditional pleasure because she is part of an unconventional school that trains female assassins. Everything comes effortlessly to her, despite the reproach of her stark competitor, Agent 84, AKA Heather (Sophie Turner). Megan has never felt like she fit in, especially when it comes to the rule where she is told to shun all forms of human connections. The only parental figure she has in her life comes in the form of her favorite instructor, Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson). Although the dark reality of being raised in a violent environment devoid of emotions has been made light-hearted and comical, Megan takes the first opportunity she can to fake her death and start a new life as a teenager.

After delivering her target, Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba), she forges an identity and chooses to stay with a family as an exchange student from Canada. Mellow mother of the family, Mrs. Larson (Rachel Harris), notices nothing wrong with Megan, but the uptight daughter Liz couldn’t care less for her. Megan wants the whole picturesque high school experience, with a boyfriend like Roger (Thomas Mann). Her plans are thwarted when she realizes how ill-prepared her teen magazines and 90’s teenager movies left her for the reality of high school in the 21st century. Things are made worse when Heather shows up, with Knox not too far behind. Good thing Megan is actually a trained killer, or else there might be something to actually be worried about.

Barely Lethal is all the fun of being bullied in school with none of the excitement of hearing Samuel L. Jackson string together a sentence full of swear words. This film is the ultimate high school experience. In high school, you don’t quite know what you want to grow up to be, so you go through different phases until you finally reach the final product. This film juggles through popular film elements, unable to decide whether it wants the mean-spirited humor of Mean Girls, or the dark comedy, super-violence of Kick-Ass, or even the deep, feel-good drama of a John Hughes film. Instead, it finds an unhappy medium with all of those elements, and it still manages to drag along a little of the 90’s teenage rom-com formulaic story lines. There is potential in Barely Lethal if it would stop trying to be a people-pleaser and fully commit to one, maybe two, genres.

The film is all about deception and betrayal, and the biggest one is this B film misusing its A star cast. Most of the characters will have or have already played an iconic comic book character in a film adaption, which would ultimately be to this film’s benefit if it could provide the story or dialogue to bring out the energy each actor had given in their previous characters. The film wants you to know that it is aware of all of the clichés in such high school films; it also wants you to know that even though it is aware, it will still use every single one of them. This move is as bold as it is benign. Ultimately it doesn’t amount to much in the end.

Barely Lethal thinks it has hopes of becoming a comic book film franchise all its own, but even with the borrowed cast from other such films (AvengersSin City, and X-Men: Apocalypse) and the rented elements from films past, this only comes off as a shallow parody of an homage to a film. The title itself is a warning reminding you that any more of this film is enough to kill you.

RATING: ★★ (2/10 stars)

Jon would say that as a writer, he is a self-proclaimed film snob and a pop culture junkie. Always gives his honest, critical, and maybe a little bit snarky opinion on everything. He's very detail oriented and loves anything involving creativity and innovation. You're better off asking him who his favorite director is rather than his favorite film. So beware and get ready to be entertained. You can contact him at or follow him on twitter @DystopianHero. (Also, he doesn't always refer to himself in the third person, but sometimes he just has to).
  • Action comedies are the most frustrating thing in the world to me. Everybody seems to love them, but there is a huge shortage of decent ones! You’d think that Hollywood would catch up to the demand, but there’s only a few that make it to widespread theatrical release each year, and most of the smaller indie ones are downright TERRIBLE. I’m not asking for masterpieces, but movies like Barely Lethal seem like they’re not even trying. I don’t think I would’ve liked this movie even when I was 12…it was just so cheesy and all the jokes fell flat.

    What a huge waste of some really great acting talent, too – you’d think if they spent the money to get Hailee Steinfeld, Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Alba they might actually make a script that is entertaining and funny…seriously my favorite part of the movie was when it became obvious we were in the final scene and they played “Get Free” by Major Lazer. I love that song, but when a song is literally the best part of a movie, well, that means I just wasted 2 hours