The aforementioned protagonist is Megan Walsh, who is eventually portrayed by that of Hailee Steinfeld, an orphaned teenager who was raised as part of a programme for young girls to become secret agents, run ruthlessly by the exasperating Hardman (Samuel L. Jackson), who wants to create a group of formidable assassins. However while on a mission to take down the elusive, nefarious villain Victoria Knox (Jessica Alba), Megan decides she wants out, and so fakes her death, only to then reinvent herself as a normal teenager, changing her identity and enrolling in a student exchange programme which sees her end up at the abode of single mother Mrs. Larson (Rachael Harris).
Megan tries desperately to befriend the eldest daughter Liz (Dove Cameron), though at high school their conflicting styles causes great embarrassment to the latter, leaving Megan to fend for herself. Quirky and unconventional, many of her new peers don’t take too fondly to the new girl – but she earns the affections of both Roger (Thomas Mann) and Cash (Toby Sebastian) as she vies to live out the standard, romanticised high school odyssey – and finds that in many ways, being a regular teenage girl can be equally, if not more, challenging than being a secret agent.
There’s a playful, meta approach to this picture, as Megan navigates her way around high school politics taking pointers from classic teen movies as her guide, referencing them along the way. While this tongue-in-cheek nature allows for this title to follow all of the same beats of the genre in a way we can identify with, it does also feel too contrived at the same time, not quite succeeding in the same way The DUFF did, for example. Nonetheless, for all of the traditionalism on show, there is a subversive edge to this picture – as the lead characters are strong, combative women. Not only Megan and her fellow agents such as Heather (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), but also the fact the primary antagonist is portrayed by a woman, and even the foster home that Megan ends up in is one that is managed by a strong-willed single mother.
To bring these roles to life there’s an impressive cast on show here, featuring many young stars with immensely bright futures ahead. From Steinfeld to Turner, or even with the likes of Mann and Gabriel Basso who plays the class clown Gooch. However you can’t help but feel that this is a project many of them may prefer not to look back on one day. We also have Jackson in an integral role – though here’s a star that, while the highest grossing actor of all time, does make the occasional dud. With an inclination of making around two good films a year and two rather forgettable, sadly this endeavour falls into the latter category.
But there is a charm to this piece, as a film that’s easy to immerse yourself in, albeit nothing we haven’t seen before. Though while Megan decides to watch a plethora of classic teen, high-school movies in preparation for her adventure, such as the likes of Mean Girls, it actually works as something of an unfortunate reminder to the viewer – that we’re probably best served merely revisiting the classics too, and should be doing so before thinking about tuning in to this particular production.