But I'm a Cheerleader

But I'm a Cheerleader tries to be both a comedy and a drama, and because of this, it loses its message. The main attack falls upon homosexual rehabilitation centers. These places believe that homosexuality is not biological and set out to change beliefs and orient gays towards heterosexuality. The center here is True Directions, and the movie mocks it and its message mercilessly. However, in doing this, But I'm a Cheerleader loses any opportunity for a meaningful message, preferring instead to dwell upon tired stereotypes (on both sides of the issue). Many of these places are also church affiliated, something the movie hints at but never really acknowledges.

Megan's (Natasha Lyonne, American Pie, Detroit Rock City) family and friends think she is a lesbian. She does not enjoy kissing her boyfriend and has pictures of women in her locker. Worse, she likes tofu and recently became a vegetarian. They send her to True Directions, a rehabilitation center run by Mary (Cathy Moriarty, Hugo Pool, Copland), a domineering woman who dresses her students in pink or blue, depending on their sex. Mike (RuPaul Charles, Crooklyn, The Brady Bunch Movie) is a recovering homosexual who assists Mary. Rehabilitation consists of doing things stereotypically assigned to each sex, such as cleaning, cooking and changing diapers for the girls and football and fixing cars for the guys. Writer/Director Jamie Babbit begins well, showing through absurdity how funny some of these ideas are. The girls in the film are a diverse bunch, but all the guys in the program are effeminate and act like sissies.

One of the girls, Graham (Clea DuVall, Committed, Girl, Interrupted) is especially hostile to the process. Megan begins to fall for her, and the two begin a delicate romance under the noses of Mary. DuVall's entire career seems to comprise of playing outsiders or people unaccepted by the mainstream (including The Astronaut's Wife and The Faculty). She does nothing new here; her role here is be the person who shows Megan that homosexuality is okay. DuVall is a capable actor, but it would be nice seeing her stretch her roles. Lyonne, who usually injects nuance and attitude in her roles, appears initially ditzy and later lost. The script confines the remainder of the cast to energetic though hollow performances. Charles is amusing as a recovering homosexual who may not be fully recovered, but it wears thin after a while. Julie Delpy and Michelle Williams also show up briefly, giving the movie an air of credibility it does not quite deserve.

There is no doubt where Babbit's feelings lie. But, But I'm a Cheerleader tackles some serious issues, and does not do them justice. Babbit would have done much better toning down the stereotypes in a comedy, or making a serious drama. Two other recent movies with similar themes, Better Than Chocolate and Show Me Love succeed because they take serious issues seriously. The funny moments in the movie are not that funny. Instead of centering on Mary and her beliefs, they tend to focus on the students. The least Babbit could do is ease off making fun of a group that she is trying to portray sympathetically.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 24 minutes, Rated R for strong language and sexual content involving teens.

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