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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sugar And Spice
Sugar And Spice
New Line
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 19, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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"Thanks to Keanu, I've figured it out. Money makes your dreams come true."

Tonight, I tore open a package containing a bunch of DVDs and immediately set down to watch two of them back-to-back. The first was "The Unbelievable Truth", the critically acclaimed debut of renowned indie film director Hal Hartley, who masterfully deconstructs pop cinema with a price tag of $75,000. Next was "Sugar and Spice", a movie where a pregnant cheerleader inspired by "Point Break" leads her squad in a bank robbery to keep her in formula and baby diapers. Guess which one I liked more? I went into "Sugar and Spice" fully expecting mindless mediocrity, but I hopped off my couch a short 75 minutes later to pen this review with a huge, goofy grin across my face.

Diane Weston (Marley Shelton) is as stereotypical a cheerleader as you could possibly hope for in a movie. She's cute, blonde, and irrepresibly perky. She starts every morning chanting life-affirming comments to herself in a heart-shaped mirror. Diane, the captain of the A-squad, finds herself smitten with football star Jack Bartlett (James Marsden), and after a predictably embarassing meet-cute, the two fall madly in love. Before a formal, Jack and Diane announce their impending nuptuals to their overjoyed parents, though their enthusiasm quickly turns to disgust when Diane also mentions a certain nine-month consequence of the hot-and-heavy affair. The lovebirds strike out on their own, with the full support of Diane's squad behind them. Jack's ineptitude at seemingly everything and his unfaltering honesty make it difficult to hold onto a job, though he finally finds a niche at a video store run by starstruck AV clubbers. Diane, who's just a bit more aware of their dismal financial situation than the irrepressibly sweet but completely clueless Jack, takes a job at one of those tiny bank branches in a local grocery store. As the squad takes advantage of Jack's discount at the video store and moon over Keanu Reeves in "Point Break", inspiration strikes -- everyone in the squad could realize their dreams by knocking off the bank where Diane works. Plotting a successful robbery proves to be more difficult than anticipated, and of course, wackiness ensues.

"Sugar and Spice" flew out of the gates with three strikes already against it. The unexpected smash hit "Bring It On", a cheerleader-themed movie that "Sugar and Spice" bears little similarity to, was still fresh in everyone's mind. It also wound up being a difficult movie to effectively summarize in cute thirty second increments, resulting in terrible TV spots that cast the film in an unjustly negative light. Finally, there was the omnipresent spectre of Columbine, still hovering menacingly over Hollywood, despite the time that has passed. The dark comedy was reportedly gutted from an R-rating to PG-13, and entire chunks of dialogue were supposedly snipped out or re-recorded. Though a deleted scenes gallery is included on the disc, if those scenes represent the difference between a PG-13 and an R, the MPAA is an even more grossly incompetent organization that I previously thought.

"Sugar and Spice" is dumb in a lot of ways, but it takes an underlying intelligence and extensive thought to create characters as daft as the ones presented here. Too many dark comedies err in mistaking cruelty for humor ("Very Bad Things" springs to mind immediately), though "Sugar and Spice" doesn't fall into that trap. Although "Sugar and Spice" isn't gut-bustingly funny, it's among the better dark comedies of recent memory. The movie doesn't drag for a second of its brief 75 minutes running time, and the often sly humor struck a chord with me.

Video: A couple of shots in the 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation, just a few seconds worth, were a bit on the grainy side, but this doesn't present a problem for the vast majority of the film. Dust and specks are non-existent, and there isn't a print flaw to be found. The detailed image features deep, sharp blacks and colors that seem timid in comparison to "Bring It On", but bold and vibrant otherwise. A typically impressive effort from New Line.

Audio: I'm a spudboy, and little warms my heart more than picking up a DVD and seeing four beautiful words flash on the screen -- "music by Mark Mothersbaugh". His work surprisingly doesn't turn up often, focusing more on guitar-driven British female-vox pop. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio isn't particularly expansive, with surrounds limited mostly to the music and a handful of effects. Although the trailer might make "Sugar and Spice" seem as if it is a movie about gun-toting chicks, the majority of the film is driven by dialogue, and the mix reflects that. For those who hate downmixing, a separate stereo surround track is provided as well.

Supplements: Half of the deleted scenes section are just slightly different versions of the first Ouija Board sequence and Lisa's story about why Kansas' mother was imprisoned. The remaining two scenes are painfully unfunny, with the first featuring Jack talking about his "sweet" car and the second with the girls arriving late to La Maz class. They run just a little longer than the theatrical trailer, which is included, along with cast/crew bios.

Conclusion: "Sugar and Spice" is much more entertaining than the impression you might've gotten from some terrible TV spots. It's probably best suited for a late Saturday night rental, but I enjoyed "Sugar and Spice" enough to recommend it as a purchase. Recommended.
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