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With: Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Mena Suvari, Marla Sokoloff, Sean Young, Melissa George, Rachel Blanchard, Alexandra Holden, Sara Marsh, James Marsden, W. Earl Brown, Adam Busch, Jake Hoffman, Nate Maher, David Belenky
Written by: Mandy Nelson
Directed by: Francine McDougall
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sex-related humor and some thematic elements
Running Time: 81
Date: 01/24/2001

Sugar & Spice (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Tasty Confection

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most teen movies feature dumb sitcom plots about teens who make up stupid plans to deceive people so that they can take their dream girl to the prom. Other teen movies occasionally look at a bigger picture (Say Anything... & Election) and become truly inspiring films. Others fall somewhere in the middle and just don't give a rat's hiney. The new film Sugar & Spice doesn't give a rat's hiney and it's loads of fun.

Instead of a sitcom plot about lying and the prom, this one is about getting pregnant and robbing a bank. Blonde Diane (Marley Shelton) leads the "A" cheerleading squad, whose members include bad girl Kansas (Mena Suvari), deeply religious Hannah (Rachel Blanchard), brainy, nerdy Lucy (Sara Marsh), and Cleo (Melissa George), who nurses an obsession with Conan O'Brien. Of course, these are convenient movie stereotypes, but when it comes down to it, they're all cheerleaders who live by the "cheerleader code."

Diane's perfect life changes when she meets Jack (James Marsden), a perfect football star who is both good looking and nice to everyone, as opposed to most movie football players who guzzle beer and stomp on computer nerds. Jack and Diane's (yes, just like the song) perfect little love affair leads to a perfect little pregnancy. Spurned by their parents, Diane realizes that she and Jack won't be able to make ends meet and she decides to rob a bank with the help of her crew. (They get the idea while watching Point Break!) Just before the robbery, one of them squeals, "this is going to be the BEST bank robbery, EVER!" Marla Sokoloff co-stars as a jealous member of the "B" squad cheerleading team who figures out the girls' crime and attempts to spoil their fun.

While the movie doesn't land anywhere near the 140 I.Q. range, it's certainly deft enough to avoid many cliches and not brain us continually with the same jokes. For example, rather than featuring the usual brain-dead parents, the film barely shows any adults at all. The teens themselves are the responsible adult ones (responsible, that is, except for the bank robbery). Jack and Diane are practically a "Brady Bunch" couple, always looking on the bright side of life. ("You can never get ahead if you're sitting on your behind," Diane always says.) One hilarious joke has Diane scribbling her "things to do" on her little pink notepad with hearts on it, messages like "buy gats from Terminator."

Strangely, the likable Sugar & Spice was not screened for reviewers before its opening, so I sat through it with an audience of Friday matinee teens. Most of them giggled politely, and calls of "stoopid!" rang out afterwards. But I laughed and had a good time. Sugar & Spice ranks squarely with the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer... brain-dead but pleasantly so.

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