Sugar & Spice

Yet another would-be satire that relies heavily upon a sense of superiority over its brainless characters, Sugar & Spice efficiently, if soullessly, cross-breeds Bring It On and Drop Dead Gorgeous to instantly forgettable results. A lowest-common-denominator teen comedy distinguished only by an abundance of Bring It On-style peppiness, the film opens by introducing its crew of perky pom-pom slingers, affording each a descriptive nickname (The Stalker, The Rebel) that doubles as the paper-thin archetype each embodies. Hyper-perky Marley Shelton, a bubbly cheerleader with near-toxic levels of school spirit, leads the gang, presiding over such high-school-movie staples as the bad girl (Mena Suvari), the brain (Sara Marsh), and the virgin (Rachel Blanchard). The most popular girl in school, Shelton takes an instant liking to the school's similarly fetching but air-headed quarterback (James Marsden), an attraction that leads both to a rapid-fire courtship and an unplanned pregnancy. Desperate to provide for her new family, Shelton and her fellow cheerleaders rob a grocery-store bank, but not before receiving the advice and counsel of Suvari's convicted mother (Sean Young) and her jailbird peers. At one point, Shelton and her cohorts wade through a stack of crime movies in preparation for the heist, a move fitting for a film that takes its vocabulary from the language of lazy cultural shorthand, flattering its audience's sense of media savvy with a barrage of obvious pop-culture references. After all, there's no point in confusing audiences with references more obscure than, say, Madonna, Jerry Springer, or Conan O'Brien, is there? The young cast acquits itself admirably, particularly Shelton and Marsden, who give their high-school couple a gonzo cheerfulness that undercuts much of the film's misanthropy. But all the enthusiasm and energy in the world can't redeem material as weak as Sugar & Spice, whose desperate need to be naughty and nice, sweet and satirical, ends up being merely dopey and inconsequential.

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