Teenybopper flatulence (2001)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on January 25, 2001 @ Las Vegas CityLife.

Sugar and Spice is more like snips and snails and puppy dog tails

Director Francine McDougall thinks of her film Sugar and Spice as "a sophisticated black comedy." Yeah, right. Its as sophisticated as a Twinkie, and as black as a marshmallow.

Sugar and Spice is the sticky story of a quintet of high school cheerleaders who, after one gets pregnant and married, plan a bank robbery to assure the baby a secure future. One can see how dark and dangerous that concept is.

Sugar and Spice is a short film trying to act like a full-length feature. This is director McDougalls first feature, and it painfully shows. It has a dopey ending and an extremely dopey beginning. The characters are introduced as clich?s. When one is introduced as "The Virgin," we know were probably in trouble. When we find out shes a born-again Christian, we know there's no bold thinker behind this film. All the characters are etch-a-sketched.

Its too bad because the cast tries hard, but their material is anorexic. Diane, the pregnant high schooler, is portrayed by Marley Shelton (Pleasantville) and Jack, her young lover, is played by James Marsden (X-Men). Get it? Jack and Diane. Writer Lone Williams couldnt carry John Mellancamps guitar pick. Marla Sokoloff, who plays a witness to the robbery, is in TVs "The Practice." Mena Suvari (Kansas), who was in American Beauty and American Pie, is now in this "American dud." Sean Young, who has finally found a film fit for her neurosis, plays her mother.

After the tediously trite beginning, which is walk-out bad, the film starts to warm up. It verges on charm. The robbery is a nice visual with the girls in colorful Betty Doll masks. And for ten minutes its a romp?it would make a good short film?but it runs out of gas, or so it seems.

The most disappointing thing about Sugar and Spice is the wasted opportunity. All over the country, makers of short films are hoping for the chance to make a feature film. Francine McDougall got that chance. At the recent Las Vegas Film Festival, there were at least a dozen makers of short films with more wit and creativity than Ms. McDougall shows. McDougall is Australian, which should sharpen her eye on American mores. It doesnt.

She perhaps is most hampered by Ms. Williams script. One scene shows how bereft of imagination it is. How will Sugar and Spice end on a sophisticated black comedy note? What incisive satiric comment will the film make? At the films finale, what will Diane do? As the car drives off, Diane...passes gas. So much for sophisticated black humor. Youve come a long way, baby. Sugar and Spice is tennybopper flatulence.

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