A scene from 'Sugar & Spice'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 93 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, January 26, 2001
Directed by Francine McDougall

Starring Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Mena Suvari, Marla Sokoloff, Alexandra Holden, Rachel Blanchard, Sara Marsh, Melissa George, Sean Young


Hardly worth the rental. Laughs will seem even more sparse when you're laughing alone at home -- if you laugh at all.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 07.17.2001


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Actresses embarrass themselves in cheerleader heist comedy

By Rob Blackwelder

Until the bank-robbing cheerleaders actually get around to the heist in the stereotype-askew teen comedy "Sugar and Spice," there isn't much to do but feel sorry for the actors.

Poor Mena Suvari, who played the teenage tease in "American Beauty," is dumped in a supporting role as a "rebel" cheerleader with a mouth like a sailor -- only this is a PG-13 movie, so she doesn't have much to do. Poor Rachel Blanchard played Marcia in two "Brady Bunch" movies and now she's stuck in bubble-headed roles like the Christian virgin cheerleader whose parents allow her to watch only G-rated movies.

Poor James Marsden, who managed to climb out of the teen slasher flick quagmire with "X-Men," takes a huge step backward playing the dopey star quarterback who knocks up the head cheerleader.

And poor, poor Marley Shelton -- who at 27 years old is still playing air-headed high school girls -- stars here as that pregnant cheerleader, whose squad rallies around her to rob a bank so she can make ends meet after her parents kick her out.

Called on to be as bright-eyed and dim-witted as possible, Shelton manages to soldier through the movie's ditzy dialogue and desperate attempts at quirky humor. (Example: One of the cheerleaders has an obsession with "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien. Ha ha! Hoooo! Oh! Stop it! You're killing me!).

But it's a little hard to feel sorry for Marla Sokoloff -- who at age 20 is the closest thing the movie has to an actual teenager. With movies like "Whatever It Takes," "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Sugar and Spice," she continues to make the worst big screen choices when on break from a great role, playing legal aide Lucy on "The Practice." She narrates the picture as a bitter rival cheerleader spilling the beans to the FBI after the figuring out for herself who was behind the bimbo bank robbery.

"Sugar and Spice" was not screened in advance for the reviewing press, which indicates the studio knows it's crap and wants to get a weekend of box office under their belts before word gets out. They're right, it's crap. But there was promise here. What this picture needed was a darker, "Heathers"-like sense of humor.

Unfortunately, the majority of the attempted comedy is burned trying to eke laughs out of these Barbie dolls masterminding the heist by watching heist movies like "Heat," "Reservoir Dogs" and "Dog Day Afternoon" -- which just isn't all that funny. Director Francine McDougall takes the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to the movie's gags, throwing in nonsense asides like a getaway van with bad breaks, instead of focusing on making the plot sharper and funnier to begin with, so she wouldn't have to patch it up with such going-nowhere gimmickry.

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