It’s “Bring It On” meets “Set It Off”! Given how “Sugar & Spice” tells the sordid story of a group of bank robbing cheerleaders, could there be a more apt description? Yes and no. While that description pretty well sums up what the film is about, it also implies that this teen comedy is a lot more fun than it actually is.
The set up is fairly simple. Diane (Marley Shelton), one-fifth of the “A” squad at Lincoln High, quite literally bumps into–make that, kicks the head of–football star Jack (a painfully mugging James Marsden), and before you know it, love has filled the air. A lot of (offscreen) fornicating later, a newly-betrothed Jack and Diane are also expectant parents. Needless to say, neither of either’s parents are too happy about the latter development, and with their paltry wages from a video store and a grocery store bank branch to counting little toward their mounting debts, Diane and her pep squad peers come up with a solution–rob a bank.
With the larcenous spirit leaders premise, of course “Sugar & Spice” has its share of amusing moments, chief among them being how this clueless quintet research their crime by watching movies involving robberies (specifically, “Point Break”). But whenever the film could use some spice, writer Mandy Nelson and director Francine McDougall turn to the other half of the title. The inherently amusing “naughtiness” of the premise is smothered in saccharine and largely unfunny goo; instead of taking a satirically subversive pleasure in seeing these good girls go bad, the audience is supposed to be invested in the nobility in their intent. But with most of the actresses (filling out the “A” squad are Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, Sara Marsh, and Melissa George) playing one-dimensional types–spelled out in the opening frames: “the rebel,” “the virgin,” et al.–it’s unsurprising that one could care less.
What is somewhat unexpected, however, are the couple of decent performances that come out of “Sugar & Spice.” Shelton displays solid timing as the daffy “mastermind” of the plot; and Marla Sokoloff, playing bitter “B” squad cheerleader Lisa, strikes a much-welcome note of acidity. Unfortunately for Sokoloff, however, her character is at the center of one of the script’s more misguided choices: a flashback structure. The film unfolds as Lisa tells law enforcement officers the story of the “A” squad, and this device quite obviously sets the stage for some kind of last-minute twist that is hence robbed of any shock value.
Ultimately, “Sugar & Spice” comes down to the heist itself, and its thoroughly anticlimactic execution speaks of the film itself–an interesting idea that when played out elicits only a slightly amused shrug at best.