Thursday, January 22, 2009

Double Trouble (Undercover Brothers #25)

Double Trouble coverPlot: Frank and Joe are sent to bodyguard actor Justin Carraway, who’s filming a movie and doing his bad boy act in Bayport.

Hip or not: Joe says “slammin.’” This has to stop now. He also uses “psych” in the narration, which would be fine — if it were 1993. I’m still amused whenever someone uses “dillweed,” though. The final nail in the “or not” coffin is when Joe calls Bayport a “rockin’” town; the term “rockin’” can never be used to describe something that is rockin’. The very use of the term automatically makes the item / event not rockin’. Example A: Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

Other linguistic follies: Joe mentions his Spidey sense “twanging.” Spidey sense tingles, dillweed. Unfortunately, when confronted with a vodka bottle stuffed with burning paper, he’s unable to come up with the esoteric but correct term of “Molotov cocktail.”

Special consideration should be given to Frank, who uses “paps” for “paparazzi” (paparazzi is already plural, Frank, so you don’t need the “s”) and “tapped” as a verb meaning “choose,” and Joe, for using “Oscar bait” in narration. Who are these people, and why have they been reading Variety? (Or more likely, Entertainment Weekly?) Although, as Joe correctly points out, “Knowledge of celebrity culture has been essential to the successful completion of many of our missions.” (Don’t worry — he’s supposedly trying to sound like that.)

Mission difficulty: Low. They still almost manage to botch it. Joe almost dies while protecting Justin from low-grade assassination attempts.

Only in Bayport’s business district: This time, we learn Bayport supports Motel Eleven (almost twice as good as Motel 6 and three better than a Super 8, although not as super), Three Monkeys (a club), and Bowl-a-Rama, which they stole from The Simpsons. There’s also Kiddie World, which appears to be a store where you get child-care items. A store named “Kiddie World” should probably sell toys, not stuff adults need to buy, given that it is impossible to say that name and retain your dignity.

It’s not like there is a ready made supporting cast or something: Frank and Joe party with a real movie star and are told to invite their own friends to the party. Chet’s invited, of course, but who else gets a call? Such longtime friends as Andrew Peterson! Kayla McHugh! Maddy! Eli! Evidently, Biff, Tony, and Phil were still in the limbo they disappeared into when the digests ended. Iola and Callie … well, who knows? Justin wanted to party with some chicks, and Iola and Callie aren’t attached any more. …

Ryan Hansen as Dick CasablancasWhy does the plot hate Joe so?: Now, to be sure, Joe does get to kill a rattlesnake; this is infinitely preferable to his and Frank’s being scared away by coyotes in Running on Fumes. Unfortunately, he gets beaten up by a not-especially-athletic female classmate. And, indignity of indignities, he looks like Dick Casablancas of Veronica Mars on the cover.

There is such a thing as being too clever: Frank forges Fenton’s name on absence slips. Given that Fenton knows they are ATAC agents, shouldn’t he be able to actually sign them? Then again, Fenton is regressing, treating Frank and Joe like amateurs. Well, I suppose they are — like rookies, then.

It’s not dirty, it’s agricultural: Frank and Joe are aided in capturing the … sigh … All-Teen Ride ‘n’ Tie saboteur because their horse wants to mate with the saboteur’s horse. It says something about the series that horses are allowed freer and more realistic expression of their urges than the lead characters.

Rock and roll, Cola Wars — I can’t take it any more!: Justin throws a hissy fit when he’s given Pepsi instead of Coke, one that ends with him hurling bowling balls at onlookers. It’s a little extreme, but if I were famous enough to get away with it, I probably would too. I mean, Pepsi and Coke are two diametrically opposed forces in the cola market. If you’re selling cola, you should know which one it is that has its logos pasted all over the staff area. It’s like asking for a Hardy Boys book and getting a Nancy Drew paperback instead.

Opinions: Frank and Joe as bodyguards is not the best plotline in the world. They’ve done it before in Top Ten Ways to Die, The Mummy’s Curse, and Death and Diamonds, although admittedly this is the first time they’ve had to guard a guy. Since they’re tied to the dipstick, they don’t investigate all that much, and they sit around waiting for murder attempts. The murder attempts are underwhelming, to say the least.

I have no idea what to make of Trudy’s crush on teen actor Justin. Is it creepy? Is it funny? Is it neither? I have to go with the last, as it’s just puzzling. It’s such an odd character flaw. Trudy has no soft spots for anyone outside the family, and yet here she is, fawning over a pretty face … well, at least we don’t have to listen to Playback the Parrot’s opinions on Justin.

I still have no idea what the All-Teen Ride ‘n’ Tie is. It’s a horseback endurance race of some sort, but there’s rules about not riding the horse for the entire course, and there may (or may not) be partners involved. All I know is Frank and Joe can’t ride at the same time, and there’s some walking involved. Oh, and you can’t gallop all the time because you’ll wear out your horse.

Grade: C. As mediocre as mediocre can be. It doesn’t really look good for the rest of the trilogy.