When you’re hot, you’re hot, when you’re not, you’re Miley Cyrus.
Four years ago, the Nashville-born actor and singer was riding the crest of a wave generated by the Hannah Montana franchise.
Her music career was flourishing, culminating in a coveted Golden Globe nomination for the song I Thought I Lost You, taken from the animated film Bolt.
Cyrus’s efforts to step away from the TV series that made her name and establish herself as a credible actress have been less successful, including the tepid love story The Last Song, which kindled a real-life romance with co-star Liam Hemsworth.
So Undercover continues her transition with a ham-fisted rehash of Miss Congeniality set on a college campus.
Private eye Molly (Cyrus) quit school to work alongside her father, former police officer Sam (Mike O’Malley).
She has learnt everything from her old man and now risks life and limb to expose adulterers and apprehend petty thieves who prey on the weak and vulnerable.
FBI agent Armon Ranford (Jeremy Piven) approaches Molly in a diner with a tantalising proposition: to pose as a college student so she can befriend Alex Patrone (Lauren McKnight), whose father is about to testify against the mob.
Initially, Molly refuses.
“We both know chasing cheating spouses is not the top rung of investigative fulfilment,” barks Ranford.
When Molly discovers her father has lost 17,000 dollars at the horse racetrack, she reluctantly accepts the mission and metamorphoses into ditzy Brooke Stonebridge from Hawaii.
Sorority queen bee Sasha (Eloise Mumford) and lieutenant Cotton (Megan Park) take an instant dislike to the new girl.
Thankfully, Molly finds an admirer in hunky student Nicholas (Joshua Bowman), who swallows her lies and makes clear his romantic interest.
So Undercover is incredibly poor and should have been consigned to the bottom shelf of the DVD rentals rather than multiplexes.
Cyrus grates with her persistent eye-rolling and fumbled attempts at teen speak (“Amazeballs!”) and the romance with Bowman’s nice guy is sickly sweet.
Screenwriters Allan Loeb and Steven Pearl evidently haven’t been told how to write a joke or deliver a punchline.
Even out-takes over the end credits, comprising fluffed lines and co-star Kelly Osbourne choking on a spicy snack, aren’t worth the celluloid they are printed on.
Laughter is a stranger to these plodding 94 minutes, not even when conversation turns to the bitchy, materialistic college gals who are ripe for a verbal lashing.
Sasha and her kin are caricatures writ large, not least airhead Cotton, who is pursuing a chemistry degree but doesn’t know the meaning of words including ‘insipid’.
She need only look at the film unfolding around her.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 3/10
Released: December 7 (UK & Ireland), 94 mins