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Cheerleading movies are undoubtedly popular, firstly because of the appeal involved with short skirts and tight tops, and secondly because they are generally mindless stories which are incredibly easy to watch. Sugar and Spice falls into both of these categories, yet somehow manages to disappoint. Mindless entertainment is all well and good when you don’t want to think too hard when watching a movie, but there’s got to be some sense of originality and style that gives the story an interestingly different feel. Sadly, this film isn’t one of them.

Movie
Sugar and Spice tells the story of the Lincoln High School A Cheerleading Squad, and in particular six pretty young girls with varied ambitions. First up is Diane the “mastermind” (Marley Shelton), who is the prettiest cheerleader in school and head of the A squad. She ends up falling pregnant and her struggle with being a tubby cheerleader and budding mother provides much of the attempted humour. Then there’s Hannah (Rachel Blanchard), a prim and proper virgin who constantly looks to the heavens for her guidance. Australia’s own Melissa George plays Cleo, an utterly strange character who’s in love with Conan O’Brien (don’t ask me why). Kansas (Mena Suvari) is the “rebel” of the group, her mother consigned to jail while she cheers her little heart out. Rounding out the sexy six is Lucy the “brain” and Fern the “terminator”, played by Sara Marsh and Alexandra Holden. Also making an appearance is a deliberately grating James Marsden who plays the eventual husband to Diane, and Marla Sokoloff as Lisa, the vengeful B squad cheerleader who is used mainly as a plot device to tell the story.

The sweet little menu system
Basically the girls are sick of being financially unstable and with Diane’s little baby cheerleader on the way they foolishly decide to try and rob the bank branch of their local supermarket. Using all of their cheerleading nous to devise the scheme, the girls (complete with “Betty doll” face masks) do their best to get away with the loot. In a direct homage to films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Sugar and Spice attempts to put its own new spin on things, with very little success. The problem is there is basically nothing remarkable about the script, the action or the humour, despite the appeal of good-looking cheerleaders. The film is lacking the dark humour of Drop Dead Gorgeous and the creativity of Bring It On, and raises only the faintest amount of interest with a half-hearted twist at the end. There is obvious talent (not that kind of talent) in a lot of the cast, namely Suvari, Shelton and Sokoloff, so it is surprising to see them involved in your run-of-the-mill attempts at humour.

The film is definitely easy to watch and will probably be sufficient entertainment for a couple of hours on a lonely night, but if you’re looking for something with a lot of comedic or sex appeal you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

Video
Presented in 2.35:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the transfer can hardly be faulted. The film is full of deep, bright colours and chances for the visuals to really shine. And shine they do. The colours are noticeably deep and everything is particularly sharp so there’s no problem with focusing on the little blue outfits of the six Lincoln schoolgirls.

Not complete without a slumber party
Audio
Even with a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack most of the interest lies in the use of music throughout the film. There are some impressive tracks included on the flick, namely pieces from The Dandy Warhols and Spiderbait among others. Everything is perfectly clear and the music sounds great through the speakers. Most of the dialogue is clear with only a few moments of lost clarity in what is mostly a dialogue-driven movie. Not much chance to use the surrounds so the music has been given a higher priority. Also included is a Dolby 2.0 track.

Extras
Not much in the way of extras, with most of the substance contained in four very short deleted scenes, two of which are merely extended versions of existing scenes in the movie. They are presented in 2.35:1 and look quite good, suggesting they we cut out probably for time reasons just before the final cut was made. There are also talent profiles for the cast which include soundbites (actually, it's more video) on their impressions of the character and the film. Nothing really deep from the actors but a welcome addition to the supplements nonetheless. There is also a theatrical trailer which rounds out the extras on the disc. Too bad there was no director’s commentary because I would have liked Francine McDougall to explain her way out of this one.

A far cry from our pal Cyclops
Overall
To be honest I was looking forward to this one and came out more than a little disappointed. The creative possibilities in a story about cheerleaders robbing a bank were explored but not used to their full capacity. The laughs were few and far between and only arose through sheer vulgarity. Members of this ensemble cast have been wasted on something that can only serve to stall further opportunities until everyone forgets about this flick. Some may like it, but it's definitely a hit/miss picture. Nevertheless, the DVD turns out much more favourable thanks to stunning visuals and just enough comment from the actors in the supplements to suffice.


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