Three and a Half Stars out of Five
In New Line Cinema’s ‘Sugar and Spice,’ we are told to “get ready to cheer for the bad girls”… and cheer we do. The story focuses on five high school cheerleaders who decide to rob a grocery store’s bank when one of them gets pregnant with twins. Since the five of them are as close to a family as they will ever get, they decide to split the money five ways– with the plans for their newfound wealth ranging from money to raise the newborns to money to pay for college tuition and a horse.
Although the storyline may sound ridiculous and weak, the film is entertaining, funny and engaging, taking its place next to last year’s guilty-pleasure cheerleading film, ‘Bring It On.’ The five girls, though different as night an day, share a chemistry both in the script and on-screen, and before the film’s end audiences will not only be cheering for the young criminals, but believe in them and their stories as well.
One of the main elements of ‘Sugar and Spice’ is just how different the main characters are, yet how well they fit together. Diane, the main character played by ‘Pleasantville”s Marley Shelton, is a perky romantic who’s main love in life shifts from cheerleading to her babies when she discovers she is pregnant. Although many films would portray her character as promiscuous and her situation as yet another statistic, screenwriter Mandy Nelson looks at the situation of a pregnant high schooler in a new limelight. Not only does the father of the baby (played by ‘X-Men”s James Marsden) stick by her side, but the couple look at the twins as a blessing. Despite their parents disowning them, the two are determined to make it on their own– both taking on new jobs in order to pay the rent while still staying in school.
Diane’s best friend Kansas, ‘American Beauty”s Mena Suvari, is as mouthy as Diane is friendly. Although the two appear to be complete opposites at the film’s start– Kansas comes from a broken home and grew up tough, while Diane had a loving family and grew up believing that everything really does come up roses– they quickly resemble each other more and more as the film progresses. Kansas’s parentless background also plays a key part in the film, since Kansas’s mother is an inmate at the local prison who eventually teaches the girls all they need to know about robbing a bank.
The remaining three girls range from a brainy cheerleader, a virginal religion freak and a cheerleader obsessed with talk-show host Conan O’Brien. Each girl provides her own on-screen chemistry that helps make the film’s cast irresistible, as well as her own background that eventually tie into the film’s main focus of robbing the bank.
All the young actresses in the film, including the villainous wanna-be cheerleader Lisa (‘Full House”s Marla Sokoloff), bring hope to the young Hollywood scene. They are all very talented and beautiful and deserve to be working much more than they currently are. Suvari shows audiences yet another side to her, playing the white-trash bad girl as splendidly as the wanna-be bad girl in ‘American Beauty’ and the angelic virgin in ‘American Pie.’ Marley Shelton plays the wide-eyed optimist perfectly, and gives the audience a glimpse of an aspiring film star destined for greatness.
The magic each actress brings to the film and her part though is just half of what makes the film so irresistible. Another main part of the film’s charm is the script. If Nelson had written this film in any other way, chances are it would rank somewhere near ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ when it comes to delightful teen films. Instead, Nelson gives the audience a witty script that never takes itself too seriously, new ideas and smart, charming characters that, despite their many flaws, give audience hope that no matter what life throws us, all will be well in the end.
The other main element in ‘Sugar and Spice’ that makes the film succeed is the chemistry the cast shares between one another. Audiences already know the talent these young girls possess, but to see them work together gives the audience a chance to see what a talented ensemble was cast. Out of the five main girls, only one– Shelton– had any real background in cheerleading. Amazing since the girls perform like they were all state-champion cheerleaders back in the day. Their cheerleading-less background though only illuminates the trust the cast shared, because not only were they trusting each other’s acting abilities to make a great film, they trusted each other with their lives when they were doing the on-screen cheers.
‘Sugar and Spice”s soundtrack is the final element of the film that makes it the enjoyable romp it is. Featuring modern day classics like ‘Rock ‘n Roll Part Two’ and danceable new tunes, the soundtrack provides the final element in the film that will get audiences riled up and ready to cheer– or at least cheer on their favorite cheerleading robbers.
‘Sugar and Spice’ takes its place next to ‘Bring It On’ as a truly fun film that will make audiences smile, and most of all, cheer. It is light-hearted, funny and leaves the audience with the hope that everything can be okay as long as you have a smile on your face. A definite must-see for both the young, and young at heart.