Sugar & Spice struggles with the existential challenge of individuating five (then six, then seven) perky white heterosexual girls wearing identical aquamarine miniskirts and halter tops. And that’s before they put on their latex “Betty” masks. It is the lesson of the film that the group spirit of cheerleaders can accomplish anything—even rob a bank so that pregnant ringleader Diane (Marley Shelton) can live happily ever after with quarterback Jake (James Marsden)—because the group spirit of cheerleaders can incorporate and assimilate a new white heterosexual girl whenever it encounters a plot hole.
Identity in Sugar & Spice is unregulated and chaotic, because the movie wantonly violates the rule that when a new girl is welcomed into a well-bonded group, she must receive a makeover. We get the theme cheerleader, and the variations: slutty cheerleader, Christian cheerleader, nerd cheerleader, biker cheerleader, trailer-park cheerleader, and Monica Lewinsky-look-alike cheerleader. But no makeovers. As a substitute group-unifying convention, Sugar & Spice offers apparent lesbians who turn out (whew!) not to be. For example, “She’s not my bitch, if that’s what you’re thinking,” says the biker cheerleader’s imprisoned mom, played by Sean Young.
There are makeovers in Head Over Heels—one while Abba is on the soundtrack, one while mafiya gunmen chase the heroine—and there is Freddie Prinze Jr., another identity problem altogether. Amanda (Monica Potter) is so taken with Jim (Prinze) that she is painting him into the Titian that she is restoring at the Met. But she can see into his apartment next door, and she thinks she saw him bludgeon a model to death. Rear Window meets Shadow of a Doubt meets She’s All That.
Although Amanda lives with four models, identity in Head Over Heels is not as fluid as in Sugar & Spice; the women are differentiated not only by characterological clichés (sensible, ditsy, vamp) but also ethnicities (black, Australian, Slavic). Head Over Heels is dopey but nontoxic; it winks at the viewer less aggressively than Sugar & Spice and features a “real” lesbian who matter-of-factly lures a model to the Dinah Shore. Prinze does an enjoyable Soloflex routine, as well as a cute number with daggers he pops out of his sleeve—like Wolverine, but without the chest hair. If you are 17, there are worse date movies.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 6, 2001