Australian high schools don’t have cheerleaders — which partially explains why Sugar & Spice‘s first-time Aussie director failed to capture the essence of this American high school mainstay, no matter how many images of the Stars and Stripes she managed to incorporate in almost every scene. The real question is: Why did she choose such a ridiculous script for her directorial debut? If female directors want to graduate from the teenage chick-flick ghetto, they must have the ovaries to stand up to the studio moneybag guys and demand better material. On the plus side, Sugar & Spice proves MacDougall is the Busby Berkeley of cheerleading routines. But great cinematic choreography and an abundance of lingerie scenes are not enough to take Sugar & Spice out of the silly cinema cellar. Giggly, gorgeous cheerleading team captain Diane (Marley Shelton, (Pleasantville) and football hero Jack (James Marsden, X-Men) find themselves facing an all-too-adult situation: parenthood. They’re so goofy in love, this terrifying prospect thrills them. But their parents, instead of supporting the teenagers’ courageous decision not to have an abortion, kick them out of their respective homes and force them to fend for themselves. So the sweethearts get a crummy apartment, suffer through minimum-wage jobs and struggle valiantly to stay in school and bring Lincoln High to the state football finals. All the while Diane endures puffiness and the growing realization that she and her twins to come are staring into a future of relentless poverty. “Money makes your dreams come true,” Diane insists. Her loyal teammates agree. Mena Suvari (American Beauty), Rachel Blanchard (TV’s Clueless), Melissa George ( Dark City), Alexandra Holden (Drop Dead Gorgeous) and Sara Marsh (in her film debut) all band together to help Diane rob a bank so she can get bassinet money. Not even the nasty rival team leader Marla Sokolof (Dude, Where’s My Car?), in the best role of the movie, can thwart their plans to become cute criminals. The girls study all the strategies laid out in bank-robbery movies, but are disappointed. “You can learn about sex from movies,” they complain, “but not how to rob banks.” So they saunter off to the local penitentiary to seek advice from Mena’s mother (Sean Young, Blade Runner). Next, they’re off to a tattoo-ridden arms dealer (W. Earl Brown, There’s Something About Mary) to gather some discards from international terrorists. Emboldened by their sisters-in-arms exuberance and patriotic masks and costumes, they perform the supermarket bank branch heist of the decade. In the end, everybody but the bank’s insurance company is happy.
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