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Movie Review

When the captain of the high school cheerleading squad is impregnated by the star quarterback, financial pressures lead her and her pep pals (all thinly drawn stereotypes completely lacking in spirit) to plan a bank heist. The girls in this unfunny comedy are so shallow that each can be defined succinctly. Diane is "the perky mastermind." Kansas is "the foul-mouthed rebel." Hannah is "the born-again virgin." Lucy is "the college-prep smartie." Lisa is "the bitter snob." And Cleo is "the vamp obsessed with Conan O’Brien."

While drooling over a Keanu Reeves movie at a slumber party, Diane and the rest of the "A" squad hatch their plan. They’ll rent movies about armed robberies and take notes so they can execute the job properly and avoid those fatal flubs that get people caught. Reservoir Dogs. Point Break. Heat. Dog Day Afternoon. The Apple Dumpling Gang (that’s Hannah’s contribution since her church-going parents only allow her to watch G-rated movies). Then the ladies attempt to buy guns from a sleazy arms dealer, which is supposed to be funny in this post-Columbine culture. When they can’t afford the weapons, they barter a spot on the cheerleading team (it seems the ammo broker’s mousy daughter has pom pom dreams of her own). After narrowly pulling off the heist, the girls come close to being caught, but bribe the lone witness and walk away with all of the cash and none of the consequences. Gimme a "C"! Gimme an "R"! Gimme an "I"! Gimme an "M"! Gimme an "E"! Gimme a "P"! Gimme an "A"! Gimme a "Y"! Gimme an "S"! What’s that spell? Crime pays!

positive elements: After learning that she’s pregnant, Diane rejects Kansas’ abortion proposal and responsibly elects to have the baby (twins, actually). Jack, who genuinely loves Diane, also does the right thing by marrying her and working hard to support them. On several occasions, people make it clear that it’s against Jack’s nature to lie. He embraces the thought of being a father and communicates to the baby in the womb—a subtle statement about when life begins.

spiritual content: I’m sure there have been more malicious Christian caricatures to come out of Hollywood than Sugar & Spice’s Hannah, but they elude me. The girl is a sanctimonious prude who pummels her peers with self-righteous advice. Even when her moral stands are appropriate, the way she goes about them displays piety and amazing insensitivity. For example, when the girls learn that Diane is pregnant and the word "abortion" pops up, Hannah pleads, "Please, Di, don’t be a whore and a murderer." Feeling uncomfortable using a Ouija board, she states, "It’s creepy, it’s wrong and it goes against the beliefs of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!" (That line leads the sexually preoccupied Cleo to describe how the image of a sweaty, bare-chested man on a cross makes her "hot.") Hannah takes pride in her virginity, yet harbors fond memories of her first "orgasm" supposedly generated from riding a horse at church camp. The others mock her frequently and, in one scene, her callousness leads Kansas to take a poke at her. Hannah may fancy herself as pristine, but she’s also a hypocrite who swears and steals.

Elsewhere, Diane takes heart from another unwed mother who had a long road to travel and nowhere to stay many years ago. She sounds like she’s talking about the virgin Mary until she begins quoting the lyrics to "Papa Don’t Preach" (consequently, the girls agree that Madonna is the ultimate role model). Other scenes belittle the crucifixion, the Bible, youth group, church camp and "redneck zealots."

sexual content: Implied intercourse leads to Diane’s pregnancy. The girls share sexual dreams and fantasies involving celebs such as talk show host Conan O’Brien and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. They’re all shown in the ladies room passing around feminine hygiene products and talking about menstruation. Jack tells his buddies about Diane’s delicate condition, which elicits macho hoots and high-fives, sending teens the message that sexual irresponsibility can make guys even more respected by their peers. Dressed only in bras and panties, the young women rifle through the pile of cash they’ve just stolen. The film includes lots of sexual dialogue and anatomical slang. As the girls explore the idea of using violent films to prep for a holdup, Diane concludes, "Sex you can learn from movies, but robberies, forget about it." An effeminate boy is pushed around and called a "fag." There are several references to lesbianism.

violent content: A woman’s shot-gunning of her philandering husband is discussed and, ultimately, excused. Teens are assaulted with fists and thrown objects. During the bank robbery, an automatic weapon sprays bullets through a supermarket, though no one is hurt.

crude or profane language: Nearly 60 profanities include the f-word and a dozen blasphemous uses of the Lord’s name. Kansas has the mouth of a truck driver, as does her convict mother (Sean Young returning from obscurity in an unflattering role).

drug and alcohol content: A minor character drinks beer.

other negative elements: Nature programs are great, but some viewers may find graphic images of a gazelle giving birth both unexpected and unnecessary. When Jack and Diane tell their parents about the pregnancy, they get absolutely no support. In fact, parents on the whole are either fair-weather friends, convicts, religious zealots, arms dealers or just plain absent. Authority figures are portrayed as being out of touch or unhelpful.

conclusion: Sugar & Spice is a postmodern fairy tale for dimpled Barbie-doll clones. The characters are either saccharine-sweet or annoyingly hard-boiled. There’s not an endearing one in the bunch. The dialogue is cheap, demeaning and features some of the most juvenile, insulting drivel imaginable. There’s profanity, sexual references and mild violence. But hands down, the character of Hannah and the film’s contempt for Christian teens and their parents is the most offensive thing I’ve seen on the screen in a long time. Now the good news: Sugar & Spice is a really lousy movie that may not be in theaters long enough to have a significant impact.

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Marley Shelton as Diane Weston; James Marsden as Jack Bartlett; Mena Suvari as Kansas Hill; Marla Sokoloff as Lisa Janusch; Rachel Blanchard as Hannah Wold; Sara Marsh as Lucy Whitman; Melissa George as Cleo Miller; Alexandra Holden as Fern Rogers; Sean Young as Mrs. Hill


Francine McDougall ( )


New Line Cinema



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Bob Smithouser

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