Film Review: But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)

Teen sex comedies are nothing new at this point. Regardless of quality, some of these films, like American Pie or Porkies, have attained a memorable position in the pop culture lexicon. It could be because of a particular outrageous scene, memorable line, or just plain fascination with the content. But sometimes, when a film takes a predictable formula and finds something new to say through it, it goes ignored. But I'm A Cheerleader is one of these films. Megan, a high school cheerleader, faces an intervention from her family and friends: they think she's a lesbian. She doesn't agree, but her parents send her off to a sexual redirection school to literally set her straight. The program has the exact opposite effect on Megan, opening her up to the realization that she is a lesbian and leading to her personal, emotional, and sexual awakening.

But I'm A Cheerleader is camp, plain and simple. From the idyllic layout of the house to the school uniforms--pink miniskirts and sweaters for the girls, blue short shorts and button down shirts for the boys, the film's visual design is a twisted riff on 1950s Americana. You don't cast Mink Stole and RuPaul as the leaders of a sexual redirection school and expect a film that is going to be straight-laced and by the numbers. You wind up with melodrama, irony, and slapstick.

The difference between this film and the others in the teen sex comedy genre really is a matter of subject. But I'm A Cheerleader is about gay teens. Boys play with boys, girls play with girls, and the stuck up school executive is pushed to her wits end by their antics. Those antics include making out in her office and going off to a gay night club, but they serve the same function as a masturbation sight gag or panty raid in more mainstream comedies.

Otherwise, the film is just a more a heartfelt and strange version of what you'd expect. The new girl comes out of her shell, falls in love with her soul mate, and faces significant obstacles to keep the relationship alive. Meanwhile, a cast of colorful stereotypes and cliches circles around her, trying just as hard to fit in as she is. The parents are passive or aggressive (but never both) and the non-parental authority figures are bumbling villains.

If you're in the mood for a particularly well-made and unique spin on a tired genre, you might like But I'm A Cheerleader. Though the film is concerned with sexual identity, the picture does a great job of opening up the story to anyone who has ever felt out of place.

Rating: 7/10

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