After school jobs are killer.
The teen spy subgenre is an oft-maligned one, with its best examples being merely OK. This is the subgenre that’s given us the vapidity of Totally Spies, the inanity of The Adventures of Beans Baxter, and the arguably unnecessary James Bond Jr. An original web series, Aim High hopes to buck this trend, offering teen high jinks combined with globetrotting spy thrills. How does it stack up?
Nick Green (Jackson Rathbone, Twilight) is an ordinary teenager, who just happens to also be a CIA assassin. With his pal Marcus (Johnny Pemberton) in on his secret, Nick tries to balance his double life, romancing his lovely classmate Amanda (Aimee Teegarden) while also trying to hunt down a sinister enemy agent (Clancy Brown, Highlander).
Told in a series of 10-13 minute episodes, Aim High hits all the notes you’d expect it to hit, with close scraps and martial arts fights mixed with classroom pranks and hormonal crushes. It’s the basic duality of a main character who is able to mow down a room full of henchmen with his bare fists, but still gets tongue-tied around a pretty girl. Rathbone finds a nice center for the character, able to balance both halves of the character. He sells both the spy shtick and the awkward teen shtick.
Given how bite-size each episode is, it’s impressive the creators are able to cram so much plot into this short first season. That’s something of a problem, however, as Aim High is overstuffed with plot. There are a ton of subplots to keep track of, many of which have nothing to do with anything. In addition to the main storyline, Nick also has to deal with a school election, a couple of Mafia-type thugs, a sexy teacher, and more. The thing is, a good number of these subplots could have been dropped without affecting the main story at all. They’re just crazy subplots for the sake of crazy subplots.
Aim High is also a little more on the adult side than the subject matter might suggest. Swearing and sex jokes are commonplace. Also, remember that Nick is not just a spy, but an assassin, and he’s brutally killing bad guys left and right without much thought. I’m no prude, it’s just that these occasional turns into R-rated territory sometimes come out of nowhere. It’s a question of tone—the edgier subject matter is sometimes at odds with the goofy slapstick comedy.
What can the DVD offer that the web series can not? The picture quality on this standard def 1.33:1 full frame transfer is clean and clear, with bright, vibrant colors, and deep black levels. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is also good, with pumping tunes and booming sound effects galore. Bonus features are two short featurettes and a music video.
When watched online, the series had a gimmick in which viewers could interact with the show by adding their own photos and text to the show’s backgrounds. This isn’t mentioned at all in the bonus features or on the packaging, and there’s no attempt to recreate that (if possible) on the disc. If you really want to watch this show hoping to see your own face on Nick’s laptop screen, it won’t happen on the DVD.
Aim High has its flaws, but it’s an amusing diversion. The tone is all over the map and there are a few too many characters, but the cast is likable and enthusiastic, which makes up for a lot.