Natasha Lyonne made quite a splash at the 1998 Florida Film Festival by essaying a wise-beyond-her-years lead performance in the winning comedy Slums of Beverly Hills. At the time I worried that the fame for which she appeared destined would exert undue pressure to smooth out the ethnicity of her appeal -- to get that nosed fixed, cover up those freckles and straighten that hair.
Two years later (and after keeping her persona intact for saving-grace cameos in the otherwise worthless "American Pie" and "Detroit Rock City"), Lyonne walks onto the screen in "But I'm a Cheerleader" as an all-American blonde with a milky complexion. Thank God it's only for satirical purposes: She's playing Megan, a 17-year-old whose apple-pie exterior is at odds with her underlying impulses. Noticing their daughter's telltale signs of same-sex longing (lingerie photos in her school locker, Melissa Etheridge posters at home, vegetarianism), Megan's parents put her in the care of True Directions, a facility whose raison d'être is "curing" gay teens of their unwholesome tendencies.
Such lunkheaded initiatives are indeed undertaken in the real world, so "Cheerleader" should be a riotous send-up of 12-step hysteria. There's only one problem: It's not funny. The movie's jokes are so broad that they barely qualify as jokes at all, and its garishly colored sets and costumes establish a Crayola milieu that's too cartoonish by half. Director Babitt (on whose original story Brian Wayne Peterson's script is based) doesn't concern himself with niggling details like plausibility and continuity; he's fallen for the misconception that comedy requires less internal logic than drama, not more.
If drunken, easily amused drag queens were to cobble a film project together at 4 a.m., this is what the result might be. Lyonne tries not to look mortified, and largely succeeds. Why not? At least she's in disguise.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.