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So Undercover

3/10

Stars: Miley Cyrus, Alexis Knapp, Autumn Reeser, Joshua Bowman, Jeremy Piven, Megan Park, Matthew Settle, Kelly Osbourne, Eloise Mumford, Lauren McKnight, Mike O’Malley

Director: Tom Vaughan

Singer and actress Miley Cyrus, magnificently marketed into stardom as ‘Hanna Montana’, is carefully ushered through this minor movie, presumably in an attempt to broaden her appeal.

The plot, carefully devised by screenwriters Alan Loeb and Steven Pearl, can be neatly summarized as I Was a Teenage ‘Tec.

Cyrus plays a street-smart private eye given to photographing errant husbands involved in extramarital relationships. (Mind you, I wondered why nobody noticed every time Cyrus took out her camera during the movie that, with its long telephoto lens, it was about as unobtrusive as a giraffe in a telephone booth. But why worry about credibility in a Miley movie?).

Her special talents, added to her age, appeal to the FBI and agent Piven recruits her to go undercover at college, join a snobby sorority and protect one of its members who holds vital evidence relating to a trial where her father is about to give evidence against a prime mobster. Cue a routine ‘fish out of water’ comedy when Cyrus has to adapt to the inherent snobbishness of her mostly obnoxious sorority sisters and save her charge…

Cyrus isn’t a bad actor – she has too much screen experience for that. But she hardly shines (except, I imagine, for her core carried-over-from-television followers). Competence is her keynote and it’s about enough to carry a slight show, which resembles nothing so much as the pilot for a TV series. Mind you Cyrus grows up enough to say “S***” audibly and a redacted Channel 4-letter word, but you know all along she’s really an all-American heroine and as clean as a newly scrubbed cathedral.

Piven does his best in a thankless role, Osbourne turns up as Cyrus’ roommate and a selection of young lovelies do all that’s demanded of them by director Tom Vaughan.

Think Nancy Drew Rides Again with minor more-modern trimmings and you won’t go far wrong.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Dec 2012