Film Review: So Undercover
It’s a Miley Cyrus movie that is essentially a knock-off of Miss Congeniality for idiots.
TL;DR Suprisingly, So Undercover is a competent, brisk, and focused movie that revels in its mediocrity. I survived. 4 out of 5 stars.
Just leave your brain at the door.
So the plot follows young private investigator Miley Cyrus who is commissioned by FBI guy Jeremy Piven to something something a mob trial witness’s daughter. She fake enrols in college and a sorority to keep an eye on her and find the similar agent the mob has planted. She eventually deduces (after obligatory red herrings) that Piven isn’t really an FBI agent and is in fact the enemy. Together with her sorority sisters, Daniel from Revenge, Rufus from Gossip Girl, and Burt Hummel from Glee, they take him down. The romance with Daniel and the sisters thing with the sorority do not overtake the main plot.
I gotta really give points to So Undercover for avoiding turning this into a romance or a finding-friends movie. I don’t know whether it’s because the movie was too inept to properly develop those subplots, or because it was genuinely trying to be streamlined, but I’m very glad that Miley’s case was the most important part.
Not everyone can be Miss Congeniality. So they were much better off not trying.
The major downfall of the movie, however, is that’s it’s so try-hard. I realise that, being a hipster, I am pre-disposed to this kind of thinking. But almost every one of the sorority girls (Miley included, though she has a plot excuse. Maybe) goes to way too much effort to try to sound sorority, valley girl-esque. It’s jarring.
Why I hate this movie:
Taylor (that chick from Project X, and the slutty girl from Pitch Perfect) is the worst offender accent-wise. Bitch ain’t natural.
Piven’s scheme seems obscenely over-complicated. He pretends to be FBI so he can send Miley in to find the mob ledgers (accounting is srs bsns), then plans to pin the murder of real FBI agent Rufus from GG on her, allowing him to get away scot free. Umm, why didn’t he just straight-up kidnap Alex (the prospective witness’s daughter) and torture the location out of her? It’s said that if Alex dies (and, presumably, the same would go with if she was harmed) then the witness will totally testify, but Piven kidnaps Alex as part of his plan later, anyway. If he was really worried about it, why didn’t he just break into the sorority and find the ledgers himself? Yeah, it’s actually a memory card tucked in her necklace, but he could have at least tried looking for them.
And really, who cares what happens to Alex. If he got the ledgers, then the prospective witness wouldn’t have anything to back up his testimony. So Piven should have done whatever he needed to Alex to get the info. Silly boy.
Kelly Osbourne shows up as an insignificant roommate of Miley’s. All she does is occasionally chime in about how ridiculous the sorority is. Her character has no importance. Weird stunt casting.
The movie sets up a whole hierarchy thing with the sorority during Miley’s training montage that doesn’t pan out. I’m glad that So Undercover stuck to the detective plot, but it was weird to have that built up as something important at the start, only for it to evaporate.
Miley motherfucking assaults Daniel at one point. She has been tricked into thinking he’s lying about his identity (thanks, Piv-dog). So in order to get rid of him while she tails Alex, she handcuffs him and fucking punches his face in to knock him out. The movie later plays this off as something cute. Nuh uh. She went for that hit. That’s not a healthy relationship.
Miley and Burt are a father/daughter PI team. Veronica Mars wannabe much? Or Nancy Drew. Pick your plagiarism.
Miley gets a makeover/sorority crash course in a warehouse before going to the college. Just like Miss Congeniality.
Bonus demerits for featuring a blatant product placement montage.
Miley has trust issues in relationships due to having spied on cheating spouses for a living. Boo fucking hoo. Get some originality. I didn’t really buy that in Veronica Mars, either.
The sorority is surprised that sexy carwashes are a better fundraiser than lobster dolls and a jumping castle. Really?
Oh, and Miley turns down an offer to join the FBI so she can continue going to college. Isn’t the endgame of a criminology course (that’s what Rufus was teaching, right?) to get a job in, like, the FBI?
Reasons to watch:
I am really, sincerely impressed that So Undercover managed to stay so free of malignant plot tumors. The sorority stuff does dovetail nicely with the final scheme against Piven, but it’s not given more importance than her actual mission. Ditto the Daniel thing.
I loved the casting. I should mention that Autumn Reeser gets a couple of scenes as Miley’s stylist and sorority coach. She’s just the right blend of honest perkiness and black irony.
Oh, and Bev from A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song (which you know I adore) is a ditzy, blonde sorority girl. She has a cheating, douchebag boyfriend who she eventually dumps (by pouring a bowl of punch on him). And she, as a chemistry major, also makes a drug to incapacitate Piven during the final scheme.
Taylor’s goal in life is to become famous through a reality show. A good one. Me too, Tay.
She makes a joke about how someone has stolen her “neck massager,” with full vibrator innuendo present. Later, when all the stolen stuff is found, it turns out that she really did have a neck massager. Though she is icked out at the thought of someone else using it. I lol’d.
Speaking of dicks, Autumn includes a pack of condoms in the product placement montage. Miley is all grown up, isn’t she?
Taylor also makes a joke about how being sick is great for weight loss. I know that feel.
Miley leverages a rival sorority member’s affair with a professor to win the inter-sorority charity contest thing. A stunt worthy of Veronica Mars.
Best line goes to Miley. She’s just been falsely accused of being a kleptomaniac by sorority president Sasha, so she breaks into her room and comes back with a yearbook:
Miley: “Becky, I’m not a klepto.”
Kello O: “What’s that?”
Miley: “Something I stole from Sasha’s room.”
Second best line goes to Taylor, who is trying to apologise after the whole theft sitch has been resolved. But she tries to backpedal when she realises she’s said too much:
Taylor: “Brook, I’m so sorry that I hated you and spread all those nasty rumours.”
It was worth a shot.
The sorority banding together to thwart Piven was cute.
Oh, and during his drug-induced ranting, Piven says he wants to go to Candy Mountain and see the unicorns. A reference I can support.
If you can stomach 90 minutes of Miley Cyrus and don’t have any Veronica Mars DVDs handy, then So Undercover is certainly worth a watch. And it’s nice to see Daniel take a step away from Revenge. I mean, really, how much longer is that shit gonna last? 4 out of 5 stars.