DEBS appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. I think the DVD stuffed into too much content, as it resulted in a lackluster presentation.
Sharpness suffered most of all. On casual viewing, the flick might actually look pretty good, but on closer examination, it appeared less concise. Many shots displayed good definition, but quite a few were tentative and without much clarity. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some light edge enhancement was noticeable through the flick. Source flaws remained absent, as no problems with specks or other defects appeared.
DEBS went with a lively palette to match its girlie tone, but the colors tended to look a bit off. While some scenes offered good vivacity, more than a few looked oddly messy and oversaturated. As with the sharpness, these elements never faltered badly, but they lacked the life they should have displayed. Blacks were similarly good but unexceptional, though shadows looked clear and visible. Enough solid elements occurred to give DEBS a “C+“, but it was an unexceptional transfer likely due to the movie’s low bit rate.
While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of DEBS outdid the visuals, it showed a few problems as well. A busy mix, the soundfield usually presented a lively affair, but it caused some distractions. The audio used the surrounds actively but not always convincingly. Music provided the least logical material from the rear, as some songs came across as unbalanced; they were louder in back than in front.
Otherwise the mix was fairly involving. The various fight sequences provided the most useful elements, as gunfire and other action pieces swirled around the room. Other than the occasional problems with balance, the music usually showed good delineation and presence. The track used the surrounds more actively than most movies but simply didn’t always mesh the package together terribly well.
Audio quality was solid across the board. Speech consistently sounded crisp and concise, while effects appeared dynamic and bold. Low-end material seemed warm and rich. Music varied somewhat due to the sources, but the songs and score usually offered nice definition and clarity. The track would have been into “A” territory with more consistency, but it still functioned well enough to get a “B+”.
We get a surprisingly large roster of extras for DEBS. We start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director/editor Angela Robinson as she gives us a running, screen-specific discussion. Robinson goes over a good mix of subjects even though the commentary never quite becomes special. She chats about the casting and working with the actors, editing and scene choices, the story’s origins and its development, shooting digitally, visual effects, locations, sets, filming on a shoestring budget and screenings at various festivals.
I definitely can’t complain about the breadth of subjects addressed, as Robinson addresses pretty much all the topics we’d expect. However, the depth isn’t great. We get a decent feel for the various elements but not a truly insightful one. A little too much dead air occurs as well. Overall, this qualifies as an informative commentary; it’s just not a great one.
For the second commentary, we hear from actors Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Jill Ritchie and Meagan Good. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Actually, Robinson’s there too, but she acts as an off-mic taskmaster who tries to keep the women on-task.
Here’s what the women discuss: clothes, makeup and hairstyles. Yeah, they get into a few other subjects such as their approaches to acting and their roles, working with Robinson and some of the performers, locations, rehearsals, and a variety of trivia bits and challenges. However, most of the time they dish like you’d expect women in their early twenties to dish. They talk about which of them looks cute and various pros and cons of their appearances.
This makes the commentary pretty lively but not exactly informative. Granted, a lot of the other tidbits offer fun insights into the production, especially since the actors take a different point of view. Those elements remain minor, though. The track also drags as it proceeds and loses some of its energy. They’re still enough fizzy fun to make this a moderately entertaining commentary; it just lacks substance.
Called Infiltrating DEBS, this featurette lasts 12 minutes and 16 seconds. We get notes from Robinson, producers Andrea Sperling and Jasmine Kosovic, and actors Good, Foster, Brewster, Ritchie, Devon Aoki, Michael Clarke Duncan, Holland Taylor, Jessica Cauffiel, and Geoff Stults. “Infiltrating” follows the movie’s path from Robinson’s 1999 comic strips to the 2003 short film to the big-screen version. We see how the short’s success led to the development of the feature edition and then learn about casting and characters, the flick’s sexual reversals, the atmosphere during the shoot, the movie’s tone and Robinson’s influence on the set, stunts and training, the tight budget and schedule, and story themes.
Usually these fairly short featurettes stick with little more than fluff. Happily, “Infiltrating” gives us a tight look at the flick. It moves through the requisite elements briskly and touches on quite a few useful topics. The show’s brevity means that we don’t get in-depth examinations of the issues, but it includes enough quality information to be worth your time.
An eight-minute and 42-second set of Deleted Scenes includes five cut sequences. We get an alternate version of the segment in which the DEBS go to “rescue” Amy from Lucy as well as a discussion of Amy’s lesbianism between Max and Dominique. We also see Amy struggle with her continued feelings for Lucy, Max’s guilt over her treatment of Amy, and the pre-prom gathering of all the DEBS and their dates. Nothing particularly interesting shows up here, though it’s kind of hot to hear Dominique discuss her lesbian fling.
Next comes a music video for “Into the Morning” by the Weekend. Is there some law that girl-oriented movies have to use this kind of sassy pop-rock tune from female performers? Apparently, as we’ve heard this kind of song a million times in a million movies. (We’ve also heard male versions of the track a jillion times - it’s a teen flick cliché.) The video uses the standard mix of movie clips and lip-synch footage to create a dull piece, though the singer’s pretty hot despite her lip ring.
A four-minute and 58-second Animatic combines rough animation and crude storyboards. It depicts the movie’s opening SAT sequence. Some alternate visuals appear and we get a nice look at the plans for the scene.
23 Production Stills mostly feature ordinary shots from the film. A few fake posters enliven the proceedings, but not by much. The DEBS Comic cover eight stillframe screens. These give us a look at Robinson’s original 1999 art. Unfortunately, so many drawings get packed onto one screen that it’s tough to make out the action much of the time.
The DVD starts with some ads. We get promos for Man of the House and Hitch. These also appear in the Previews area along with trailers for The Brooke Ellison Story, Spanglish and the xXx Director’s Cut. No trailer for DEBS appears.
One disappointment: unless it’s hidden in here as an Easter egg, the DVD doesn’t present Robinson’s 2003 short version of DEBS. That seems like a natural addition to this set, so its absence is regrettable. Perhaps the DVD’s producers couldn’t get the rights to it; it appears on a separate compilation DVD, so that’s probably the case.
A twist with a story built around it, DEBS has enough inherent kick to make it work - in theory. Too bad it lacks interesting characters or situations, a coherent tale, or anything beyond very minor cheap thrills. The DVD presents fuzzy and disappointing picture quality along with pretty positive audio and some good extras. Perhaps in the hands of a more confident and daring director - and with an “R” rating - DEBS could have been worth a look. Unfortunately, the end result is a clunker.