SUGAR & SPICE
Director: Francine McDougall
Cast: Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Mena Suvari, Marla Sokoloff, Alexandra Holden, Rachel Blanchard, Sara Marsh, Melissa George
MPAA Rating: (for language, sex-related humor and some thematic elements)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 1/26/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
The cheerleader-movie may be becoming a genre all its own. If it is, I will gladly say that Sugar & Spice is the best cheerleader-movie that could possibly be made. Itís wickedly funny, surprisingly smart, and includes a character who has a unabashed crush on Conan OíBrien. I liked it for the most part, but it sometimes falls flat.
The movieís start is pretty simplistic: Diane (Marley Shelton) is the captain of the high school cheerleading squad. She and her fellow teammates are completely in tune with each other. They even get their periods at the same time. Diane meets the new captain of the football team Jack (James Marsden), and the attraction is immediate and mutual. They fall in love, she gets pregnant, and all of a sudden, no one understands their desire to start a family. They move into an apartment, and he gets a few jobs, none of which help provide for the two of them, let alone a baby. Then while watching Point Break with the squad, Diane gets an idea: they could rob a bank.
The setup here provides a perfect opportunity for cleverness, and the script by Mandy Nelson doesnít disappoint. The movie takes this basic premise and quickly moves through a lot of attentive satire. I liked the way the squad research their technique by watching movies about robberies; Iím especially glad they included Heat on their list. The movie is fully aware of pop-culture references, and they flood through the script without hesitation. These girls are smarter than your average cheerleader-movie cheerleaders, and thatís one of the reasons this movie works.
The characters that make up the rest of the cheerleading squad are funny but forgettable. I enjoyed the comedy involving the extremely religious girl who learns the joys of horseback-riding, and the one who has a crush on Conan OíBrien is full of such commitment to her unlikely attraction, it works. Thereís also a very scary scene involving the girlís acquisition of guns. Itís frightening because it strikes true, but itís amusing for the same reason. The scene works as comedy, but it also has much darker undertones to it. It works.
In fact, so much of the movie is effective, itís difficult to explain what isnít. Iíll try. First, Jack is so overly nice, it get annoying very quickly. I think of the jock character in Election as a comparison. He was also extremely nice, but he never got annoying. Maybe itís the actor or maybe itís the script, but for some reason, I really didnít like Jack after a while. Secondly, and most importantly, the robbery itself is anti-climactic. It seems to come from nowhere, and the payoff isnít completely satisfying. I would have liked to see more planning scenes and maybe some practice sessions. Itís a small complaint, but it does make a lot of difference.
Sugar & Spice is much better than it needed to be, and I wouldnít persuade people to avoid it. Itís a very funny and very entertaining, if not ultimately, very forgettable movie.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.