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Laramie Movie Scope:
Sugar and Spice

An edgier version of 'Bring it On'

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 31, 2001 -- "Sugar and Spice" is a wacky comedy about members of a high school cheerleading squad who stage an armed robbery. It is a completely silly subject and the characters are moronic and shallow, but the dialogue is sharp and clever.

It is a strange feeling, watching this film. I heard some very clever dialogue, but it just didn't seem that funny. One of the problems was that the characters were not easy for me to relate to. Maybe you actually have to be a cheerleader to relate to it. In the recent film "Get it On" there was more emphasis on the gymnastic component of cheerleading, which at least takes some skill. There was also more character development in that film. In this film, it was all about the social status of cheerleaders and how some people will do anything, lie, cheat, steal, to get on the squad.

Marley Shelton of "Never Been Kissed") stars as Diane Weston, the leader of the cheerleading squad. She falls in love with the star quarterback of the school's football team. The two get themselves in a fix and Diane decides she needs some money fast so the squad decides to pull a bank robbery. The funny preparations for the heist includes watching movies about bank robberies and writing reports. Cheerleader Kansas Hill (Mena Suvari of "American Beauty"), whose mother is in prison, goes to get advice on armed robbery from her mother. Now, if she'd gotten advice from someone who hadn't gotten caught, she might have been better off. This leads the cheerleaders off on a quest for weapons and other materials.

The robbery itself is funny because the cheerleaders don't know how to conduct themselves and are confused by the questions of those at the robbery scene. The police round up the usual wrong suspects, using wacky racial profiling guidelines. Only Lisa Janusch (Marla Sokoloff of "Dude, Where's My Car?"), another cheerleader, who just happens to be at the scene of the crime, suspects the truth. When two of the masked cheerleaders hoist another up to spray paint a surveillance camera lens at the bank, then catch her, Lisa says, "That's an illegal catch!" citing the rules of the national cheerleading association. There are numerous references to the cheerleading rule book in the film. Lisa also serves as the film's narrator.

While there are funny moments in the film, you never really get into any of the characters. It is all about status, not about skill. All the cheerleaders got where they are because they are attractive. Furthermore, they feel they are entitled to an easy life merely because they are attractive. Hence, the robbery, because they (Diane in particular) don't want to have to actually work for a living. They therefore feel entitled to steal the hard-earned cash of others. This is an ugly, elitist notion. I would be deeply offended if the film were the slightest bit serious. Since it is a fluffy light comedy, the underlying philosophy is only an annoyance.

Another character, Hannah Wold (Rachel Blanchard of "Road Trip") is a conservative Christian, initially portrayed as unfeeling and judgmental, she later turns out to be all right because she goes along with the bank robbery (she plans to use the money to buy a horse). According to the movie, the only reason she is on the cheerleading squad at all is because, you guessed it, she is attractive. That's Hollywood for you. With all this mean-spirited stuff, bubbling just under the surface, it tends to take the edge off the clever dialogue in the film. This movie rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)