February 1, 2001

All The Wrong Ingredients

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With Sugar & Spice, director Francine McDougall blends the practically ubiquitous movie themes of high school and bank robbery into a single motion picture. Suffice it to say, you probably couldn’t fall asleep and dream a more fantastical plot.

Diane Weston (Marley Shelton), according to narrator Lisa (Marla Sokoloff), has the perfect life: she’s the head cheerleader and the girlfriend of football captain Jack Bartlett (James Marsden).

This is turned upside down when Diane reveals to her parents that, not only will she and Jack be getting married, but also they will be doing so after she gives birth to his child. She’s all but disowned, and so moves into a cheap apartment with Jack, who’s encountered similar treatment from his own parents. To earn money, Jack takes a job at a video store while Diane works at a bank.

Things aren’t so good for the future Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett. Money’s tight, bills need to be paid, and so Diane decides to rob a bank. She enlists the aid of her fellow A-Squad cheerleaders: rebellious Kansas (Mena Suvari), religious Hannah (Rachel Blanchard), intelligent Lucy (Sara Marsh), and eccentric Cleo (Melissa George). The latter part of the film details the squad’s training for, and committing of, this great heist.

The plot of Sugar & Spice is simply ridiculous, filled with several lapses in logic. Perhaps most unrealistic is the amount of freedom Kansas has in consulting her incarcerated mother and her jailmates about the dos and don’ts of bank robbery. Prison guards for some reason don’t seem to take notice when discussions of weaponry fill the visitors’ area.

Perhaps due in part to the inanity of the story, Sugar & Spice does actually provide some pretty decent laughs. These tended to come as a result of Sokoloff’s prolific one-liners as she recounts the cheerleaders’ story. Shelton was also funny to watch, as she progressed from cheery cheerleader to less-than-enthusiastic mother-to-be.

The rest of the performances were for the most part solid as well. I was particularly surprised by Marsden’s role, a striking contrast to his part as the rather somber Cyclops in last summer’s blockbuster X-Men. Here he’s a clueless, somewhat immature jock, who ponders whether it’s better to be Count Chocula or Trix the Rabbit and laments the fact that Cap’n Crunch shreds the roof of your mouth.

Sugar & Spice is good for a few laughs here and there, but on the whole doesn’t hold up as any piece of logical, truly entertaining storytelling. It’s pure fantasy — the stuff of dreams, or perhaps for some, the stuff of nightmares.

Archived article by Adam Cooper