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New Line Home Cinema presents
Sugar and Spice (2001)

"So when your Dad said that he never wanted to see our f'ing faces again do you think he meant like forever forever?"
- Diane (Marley Shelton)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 16, 2001

Stars: Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Mena Suvari, Marla Sokoloff
Other Stars: Sean Young, Melissa George, Rachel Blanchard
Director: Francine McDougall

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sex related humor, and some thematic elements
Run Time: 01h:23m:52s
Release Date: July 17, 2001
UPC: 794043529825
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-B+B+ C+

DVD Review

For those doubting Hollywood's ability to capitalize on the newest and most up to date trends look no further than the recent rash of cheerleader-based films that have come out within the past year. With But I'm A Cheerleader as well as Bring It On becoming hits in both the independent and mainstream cinemas, it looked as though a new genre had been created. Coming (thankfully) at the end of the craze was New Line's Sugar and Spice, a movie that sat on the shelf for months until finally getting a release on the traditionally deadly Superbowl weekend of 2001. While Sugar and Spice contains more laughs than the two previous films combined, it died a fast death at the box office lasting only a week at my local theater.

Meet the "A" cheerleading squad at Lincoln High: Kansas (Suvari) is the tough girl with attitude and a truck driver's mouth, possibly attributable to her mother being charged with murder while giving birth to her. Hannah (Blanchard) has strict religious parents, and her fascination with horses is far from being normal. Cleo (George) is tall, beautiful, and hopelessly obsessed with Conan O'Brien. Lisa (Marsh) is the straight arrow with dreams of Harvard, as well as the burden of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. And finally there is Diane, the leader and the most beautiful of the squad. While the five are the envy of nearly every girl at the school, B-squad cheerleader Lisa (Sokoloff), will stop at nothing to take Diane's spot.

Everything changes for the group when Jack Bartlett (Marsden), the new quarterback falls deeply in love with Diane. Everything seems to be normal for Jack and Diane (get it?) until Diane becomes pregnant and the two must live together after being disowned by their parents. With finances thin, Jack has to find work at a video store while Diane becomes a teller at a grocery store bank branch. As the two work themselves to exhaustion, Diane gets an idea while watching Point Break: the squad of five will rob the bank she works at. In an effort to learn about bank robberies the five watch films like Heat and Reservoir Dogs.

What separates Sugar and Spice from the countless other stupid high school comedies is simple: it's a smart movie. Instead of the standard three act structure that has become engraved in comedy history (setup, conflict, resolution), the script builds to the robbery with no trauma or emotional blowups.

There is a lot to like about Sugar and Spice (Hannah's viewing of The Apple Dumpling Gang because she is only allowed G-rated movies comes to mind), yet there are many glaring problems. The least of which is that with a long buildup to the robbery itself the ending feels rushed and thrown together. Another is that in many ways the picture is too tame for its own good. Originally titled Sugar, Spice, and Semiautomatics the picture plays it safe, missing that something that would have made it a terrific black comedy. Instead the picture comes off as Heathers lite. In the end Sugar and Spice is a mirror of its title, some sweet, some dark, but not enough of either.

With a female Director (Francine McDougall), writer (Lona Williams), and producer (Wendy Finerman) Sugar and Spice is intuitive in its dialogue and in the way the members of the group react off of each other. The cast features two standout performances by Suvari and Sokoloff, both of which are not surprisingly the best known of the group. Suvari's Kansas is so wonderful that I found myself commenting as to how great of a young actress she is, an opinion I did not hold before viewing the film. Sokoloff has many of the film's best lines, which may explain why she is one of the highpoints. Shelton, Blanchard, Marsh, and George each give fine performances as the remaining members of the squad. And Marsden plays the dumb jock role so well one must wonder if he had previous training.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: In the year that I have been reviewing for this site there has been one constant and that is the level of quality that comes with a New Line DVD. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer for Sugar and Spice is up to par with other releases from the studio, yet there are a few minor flaws. Sharpness and detail are above average while black levels come across nicely with a bit of grain. The grain is noticeable in other scenes as well but it never becomes overly distracting. Colors are vibrant, especially in chapter 2 during a pep rally at the school. Even the muted grays and blues of a prison in chapter 9 come off well. Overall this is another fine transfer from New Line. A full frame version of Sugar and Spice is also available for viewing.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as Dolby 2 channel surround, Sugar and Spice boasts a few moments of directionality, yet to call this mix reference quality is a stretch. Dialogue takes center stage in the mix and luckily it is clear and easy to understand, while the score plays nicely across the left and right speakers. Only one moment in Chapter 14 showcases the split surrounds, but needless to say it has something to do with a machine gun. Overall a nice, if a little restrained mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: With the film's disastrous box office take a special edition seems unlikely, yet the extra features that are offered are worthy of a look. First up is an extended version of the film, I failed to see the film in theaters so I am not sure what is added, but there are no racy scenes or rampant use of harsh language. Next up are two deleted scenes and two extended scenes. It is nice to see New Line differentiating the two while other studios mask "extended" scenes as "deleted" ones. The theatrical trailer as well as a small selection of cast and crew bios round out the extras. The cast and crew section also features character profiles as well.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Sugar and Spice is a biting satire that is worthy of at least a rental. Those who enjoyed during its short run in theaters will not be disappointed by New Line's DVD release. You could do a lot worse (Bring It On for example), than Sugar and Spice. Recommended as a rental.


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