D.E.B.S. started out as an 11-minute short, which is also where it should have stopped. But the concept of nubile crime-fighters in skimpy Catholic-schoolgirl outfits no doubt inspired visions of dancing dollar signs and cash registers ka-chinging. So now it's been expanded into a leaden concoction that understandably feels like an amusing short padded with 80 minutes of undistinguished jibber-jabber better left on the editing-room floor.
Combining the visceral excitement of a low-budget indie romance with all the depth, character development, and gravity usually associated with comedies about foxy female crime-fighters, the film casts Sara Foster as an esteemed agent of D.E.B.S., a scantily clad secret organization devoted to fighting crime and turning the public on. Jordana Brewster co-stars as a notorious, neurotic super-villain who falls for Foster and her short, short skirts, a development that sounds clever and even mildly subversive in theory. But onscreen, it plays out as something else entirely. It doesn't help that writer-director Angela Robinson never finds a consistent tone—D.E.B.S. oscillates between the glib camp smirkiness of its half-hearted action send-up and the thudding earnestness of its romance—or that its lovers display all the sizzling sexual chemistry of John Travolta and Lily Tomlin in Moment By Moment. Even more damning is the fact that D.E.B.S.' skid-row production values, combined with its suggestive title, guy-friendly lipstick lesbianism, and mildly naughty premise make it feel like a tongue-in-cheek porn film with all the sex scenes edited out.
In the end, D.E.B.S. is an incorrigible tease. It baits its audience with the promise of fluffy, light-footed cotton-candy fare, but delivers a clumsy, talky, indifferently filmed lesbian romance. Then again, D.E.B.S. has already succeeded in its function as a glorified calling card, netting Robinson a studio gig helming the regrettably but amusingly titled Herbie: Fully Loaded. If Robinson follows her D.E.B.S. template of 95 percent talk to 5 percent action, Herbie should consist mainly of Lindsay Lohan discussing the complications and challenges of her relationship with the wacky, sentient automobile with everyone in earshot.