Sugar & Spice

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Sugar & Spice
Movie sugar and spice poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrancine McDougall
Produced byWendy Finerman
Written byMandy Nelson
Music byMark Mothersbaugh
CinematographyRobert Brinkmann
Edited bySloane Klevin
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • January 26, 2001 (2001-01-26) (United States)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$27 million[1]
Box office$16.9 million[1][2]

Sugar & Spice is a 2001 American black comedy film directed by Francine McDougall and starring Marley Shelton, Marla Sokoloff and Mena Suvari. The plot follows a group of high school cheerleaders who conspire and commit armed robbery when one of them becomes pregnant and desperate for money.

The film received mixed reviews from critics.[3] It grossed a worldwide total of $16.9 million against a budget of $27 million.


The story is narrated by Lisa Janusch (Marla Sokoloff), the bitter and jealous head cheerleader of Lincoln High School's B-squad.

Diane Weston (Marley Shelton), the popular head cheerleader of Lincoln High School's A-squad, becomes pregnant by the star football quarterback Jack Bartlett (James Marsden). The two are kicked out of their parents' homes and find an apartment of their own. Jack initially has problems keeping a job, due to his tactless personality, but finally gets hired at a video rental store. In spite of their problems coming up with the rent money, Jack and Diane try as hard as they can to survive while going to school at the same time. Lisa, Diane's bitter rival, occasionally runs into Jack at the rental store. She is interested in winning Jack's heart, but fails to get his attention.

After struggling with the rent and anticipating the financial hardship of supporting a family, Diane and her four cheerleader squadmates, Kansas Hill (Mena Suvari), Cleo Miller (Melissa George), Lucy Whitmore (Sara Marsh), and Hannah Wald (Rachel Blanchard), plan the perfect bank robbery. They promise each other not to tell Jack about their plan, because of his inability to lie to others.

The squad watches heist films to learn how to rob banks, and Kansas visits her mother at the women's penitentiary for tips on where to find weaponry. Following the women's advice, Diane and her friends visit a bug exterminator, "The Terminator" (W. Earl Brown), who sells illegal arms and ammo. He refuses to sell them the guns unless they accept his awkward daughter, Fern Rogers (Alexandra Holden), on the squad.

The squad agrees to do so and they begin rehearsing the robbery, as well as their choreography for the winter ball. During winter break, they order masks to hide their identities. Lucy backs out of the heist because she receives a scholarship to Harvard. At Christmas, Diane receives an engagement ring from Jack. She then finds out he sold his GTO in order to buy her the ring. The squad is forced to obtain a new get-away vehicle, prompting Fern to volunteer her father's work van with bad brakes.

At their first robbery at a supermarket, Lucy returns to the group having decided to help them after all. Lisa happens to be in the store at the time of the robbery, and notices that they perform cheerleader stunts in order to cover up the security cameras. The squad robs the bank and come close to shooting a customer after one of the guns discharges. They make off with armloads of cash and celebrate their success after burning their costumes. The robbery is reported on TV. Neither Diane nor her friends expect Lisa to suspect them until they are confronted by her and the B-squad in the high school cafeteria, followed by the FBI.

Diane and her friends are jailed and need an alibi, so Diane promises to promote Lisa to captain of the A-squad in order to keep Lisa silent, since she is approaching her third trimester and can't do rigorous activity. The group is outraged, but come to appreciate this decision. In order to cover up her actions, Diane tells Jack she won the lottery and after they have their twins, Jack wins his senatorial campaign, and Diane's squad lead successful lives after high school.



The was loosely based on a 1999 series of robberies perpetrated by four teenage girls from the Kingwood area of Houston, Texas.[4] Sokoloff stated, "It's not the same, of course, yet I'm not sure if Sugar & Spice would have been made if that hadn't happened."[5]

The film was originally titled Sugar & Spice & Semi-automatics but the title was changed and the script toned down after the Columbine High School massacre. The film changed so much from the original that Lona Williams had her name taken off the film and the writing was instead credited to the pseudonym Mandy Nelson.[6]

Casting for the film coincided with the casting of a rival movie about cheerleaders, Bring It On. In 2018, actress Gabrielle Union claimed that she and many of her Bring It On co-stars auditioned for Sugar & Spice, with the latter seen as the more desirable project. "Bring It On was the cheerleading movie that was the consolation prize because you didn't get the cheerleading movie that you wanted," she said.[7]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 28% based on reviews from 75 critics, with the site's consensus "Though this cheerleader comedy has an intriguing premise, it's too empty-headed and saddled with too many lame jokes to live up to it. Also, some critics say the movie is irresponsible in its depiction of teens and guns."[8] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 48% based on reviews from 17 critics.[3] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and wrote: " It's is not a great high school movie like Election, but it's alive and risky and saucy."[10] Brendan Kelly of Variety magazine gave the film a positive review, calling it: "Quite a smart little film with a surprising satirical edge."[11] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B grade, and wrote: "It's fun in its raunchy unwieldiness."[12]

Peter Travers at Rolling Stone Magazine compared the film unfavorably to Bring it On saying it was "not in the same clever league" and is critical that Suvari is underused, and that the gags are "scattershot at best".[13] Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle wrote that "The actors didn't seem worried by taking a comic approach to teen crime."[5]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #5 at the North American Box office making $5,891,176 USD in its opening weekend. By the end of its run, it had grossed $13,305,101 in the domestic box office and $16,908,947 worldwide; based on a $27 million budget, it was a box office bomb.[1][2]



  1. ^ a b c Sugar & Spice at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b "Sugar & Spice". The Numbers.
  3. ^ a b "Sugar & Spice 2001". Metacritic.
  4. ^ Henderson, Gracie. "Parole denied for two of the Kingwood "Queens of Armed Robbery" (Archive). Houston Community Newspapers & Media Group. Thursday July 17, 2003. Retrieved on February 15, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Westbrook, Bruce (January 21, 2001). "Film: 'Sugar & Spice,'where everything's nice". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
  6. ^ Louis Peitzman (July 22, 2014). ""Jesus Loves Winners": How "Drop Dead Gorgeous" Found Cult Success As A Flop". BuzzFeed.
  7. ^ Lawrence, Derek (May 4, 2018). "Gabrielle Union's big-screen breakout is finally here". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  8. ^ Sugar & Spice at Rotten Tomatoes
  9. ^ "SUGAR AND SPICE (2001) D+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-08-30.
  10. ^ Roger Ebert (January 26, 2001). "All the right moves – These cheerleaders are made of more than 'Sugar & Spice'". Chicago Sun-Times.
  11. ^ Brendan Kelly (29 January 2001). "Sugar & Spice". Variety (magazine).
  12. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (February 9, 2001). "Movie Review: 'Sugar & Spice'". Entertainment Weekly.
  13. ^ Peter Travers (January 18, 2001). "Sugar & Spice". Rolling Stone (magazine).

External links[edit]