Sugar & Spice Movie Review

We all have a threshold of tolerance. With Sugar & Spice, it took about 30 seconds before this was breached for me. A gaggle of five bright smiling high school cheerleaders are introduced through cute snapshot close-ups which describe each of them with such monikers as "the Brain," "the Virgin," and "the Mastermind." The pop-fizz music, pretty-ninny faces, and anorexic bodies immediately shouted: This is not your kind of movie.

I'm willing to accept that. The teenybopper genre is meant to appeal to a younger, less cynical audience. However, it's painful to think that a high school crowd might actually flock to this irresponsible goofball comedy about the ditzy blonde captain of the cheerleader quad, Diane (Marley Shelton), who marries the star quarterback (James Marsden, X-Men) and is pregnant with his baby. Perhaps I'm underestimating teen standards. I sure hope so.

How are these underage parents to support the bun in her oven? Kids of America, take note! Bring It On meets Set It Off as Diane turns her ever loyal cheerleader squad to a life of crime. A robbery will solve all their financial problems -- the brainy cheerleader will be able to afford Harvard, the wholesome religious cheerleader can send all her money to some starving Ethiopian child, and Diane can raise her baby in a happy life without food stamps. It all works out in the end. Sigh.

You can see the scenes before they happen. Each one hits an easy mark. I suspect that screenplays such as this one are not actually written, but fed into a computer. Planning the Heist comes before the Heist which comes before the scene where they throw the money up in the air. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

The five cheerleaders are a team -- they do everything together! Whether passing around maxi pads in the bathroom or reciting their chant ("Cheerleaders kick --" followed by a synchronized smack on the bum), they know how to work as a unit. Their Britney Spears pep rally performance features the same moves they will employ when choreographing the their perfect robbery, decked out in blonde "Betty" masks.

For research, they check out a series of heist movies including Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, and Reservoir Dogs (cut to a shot of the screenwriter breaking her arm while patting herself on the back for cleverness). I can just picture it. "Let's just reference the movies we've cadged the plot from! Boy, screenwriting is easy! It just writes itself!"

Marley Shelton is ostensibly the star, but it is difficult to tell one girl apart from the next (including Mena Suvari, American Beauty). They all have the same dewy vocal inflections, rake-thin bodies, straight hair, and girly-girl make-up. Occasionally, you could figure out who was who because the same jokes get recycled over and over again. One of them adores Conan O'Brien, so a Conan joke pops up whenever she speaks. It stays on that superficial level.

Sugar & Spice clearly wants to have it both ways with these characters, poking fun at their ditz while endearing us to their plight. At its moral foundation, what these teens are doing is wrong, even as the film tries to pass off their actions as girl power for their greater good. While they look like Barbie dolls on the surface, there's an underlying nastiness underneath that may keep discriminating kids away. We can only hope.

The DVD for Sugar & Spice is allegedly an "Extended Version Not Seen in Theatres," but really this amounts to four deleted scenes with some very mild raciness added in (or rather, unedited out). While the disk has great technical features, that's not enough to overcome the fact that the movie itself is unfortunately very, very dumb.

We can empathize.


Comments

Sugar & Spice Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG-13, 2001

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