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With: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul Charles, Michelle Williams, Mink Stole, Bud Cort, Melanie Lynskey, Joel Michaely, Kip Pardue
Written by: Jamie Babbit, Brian Wayne Peterson
Directed by: Jamie Babbit
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sexual content involving teens
Running Time: 85
Date: 09/12/1999

But I'm a Cheerleader (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Urges and Purges

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

But I'm a Cheerleader is a clever bit of social satire wrapped up in acandy-colored John Waters-type movie. How many Republicans out there secretlywish that there really were a camp where they could send gays and lesbians to be"cured"? This movie is a vision of how funny, and how ineffective, such a campwould be.

Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan Bloomfield, the cheerleader who doesn't realize that she's a lesbian. She's a vegetarian, she keeps pictures of girls in her locker, and she fantasizes about the other cheerleaders. You can't blame her, though, when her boyfriend kisses like a horse eating spaghetti. Her parents (Bud Cort and Mink Stole, brilliantly cast) send her to the deprogramming camp led by maniacal Cathy Moriarity. RuPaul appears in male form, as a counselor who can't keep his own homosexual urges under control.

Lyonne is immediately drawn to the adorable and rebellious Graham (Clea Duvall) with a stray link of hair forever hanging in front of her eyes. Graham doesn't seem to be under any allusions that the camp will change her, but the other characters try hard, and the result is hilarious. The girls are made to scrub floors and change baby diapers, while the boys have to learn how to play football and adjust their crotches. The girls are forced to wear pink and study in cotton-candy pink rooms, while the boys are drenched in baby-blue. The movie makes the most of these color schemes, splashing it on to thoroughly and visually make its presence known.

While much of the movie is rather obvious, it gets good when the adults are involved. Just seeing Bud Cort's face while he's mentally straining to understand his daughter, or Cathy Moriarity steaming with her own pent-up sexuality, is worth the price of admission. It helps that the movie carefully cast cult legends for its grown-up parts. (In one scene, the girls escape the school for a night in a lesbian bar, and Lyonne finds herself propositioned by a very sexy Julie Delpy, and we can suddenly see how, for Lyonne, being a lesbian wouldn't be so bad.)

But I'm a Cheerleader is just wicked enough and smart enough to qualify for something like a MAD Magazine article. It's great fun, and is cause for many gleeful smiles. But, like the cotton candy it's colored for, don't expect it to linger very long.

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