Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Barely Lethal by Mateo Messina (Review)

posted Jun 17, 2015, 4:35 PM by Kaya Savas

The crime-fighting youth genre has seen many incarnations and takes over the years. I get the idea of trying to appeal to a market of teens and tweens to make them feel on the level of adults in cool action scenarios. You can either go for the young demographic and keep it light like Agent Cody Banks or the Spy Kids franchise, or go balls-out and make a stylistic romp like Kick-Ass or The Kingsman. Either way, it’s bound to allow for some fun genre scoring for the composer. Barely Lethal falls in the middle here with aiming for a PG-13 rating and going the opposite route. Instead of a young teen becoming a secret agent or superhero, we have one who just wants to be a normal girl. So pretty much what the target demographic already is. The score by Mateo Messina is what you’d expect, and has to juggle this mess of a film by blending techno spy sounds with boy drama at homecoming. Don’t hold your breath.

The first half of the album is actually pretty interesting at times. If the score does one thing, it’s that it creates a personality for the film. It has a hint of a retro vibe to the sound, but all in all feels like it’s trying really hard to capture the personality of Henry Jackman’s Big Hero 6 at times. The jumbled percussion and electronic hits get in the way of anything interesting happening, and by the time we hit the halfway mark it switches over to a high school comedy score. Maybe it’s just the very pink cover art, but I swear the music just sounds “pink” at times. It tries so hard to be this poppy personality of our stereotypical teen girl protagonist that it just becomes style over substance. The short track times don’t help it congeal into anything substantial, and the music really only works in bursts. The score never builds to anything and really doesn’t feel connected as a narrative at all.

In the end the score is just a colorful burst of stylistic music that fails to do much of anything. You got some spy stuff going on and then you got some teen drama going on. It has a personality, but it’s a dull one. There is no story being told and no narrative momentum. We’ve seen Agent Cody Banks, we’ve seen Spy Kids and we’ve seen Kick-Ass. There’s no need for this DirecTV made genre dud, and the score just can’t manage to get anything going besides the expected spy-infused fluff.