out of Five
Running time: 94
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)?
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 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.
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.