The first thing to say is that Lionsgate has packed a great transfer into this new Blu-ray release. The source material has been rendered with fine detail, low grain, and vibrant colours. This is good news because, as its cult fan base will know, But I’m a Cheerleader is a film of pinks, greens and blues. Fans can also enjoy a small selection of special features, including a cast reunion film and a ‘making of’ feature. “I haven’t seen that in years!” will be the sentiment of most people who buy this, but what about newcomers? Well, it depends on their age, because Jamie Babbit’s film is a teen comedy that caters almost exclusively to its target audience.
Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan, a young lesbian cheerleader whose religious parents send her to conversion therapy. A dark premise, right? Not really, because this is a pantomime social satire where everything is campy and scored by a quirky xylophone. Megan realises she’s different whenever her boyfriend snogs her like a washing machine. As he slathers all over Megan’s face, she dreams of her cheerleading team’s bouncing, scantily clad bodies. Incidentally, these flashback moments really do benefit from the new HD transfer.
Megan’s life at school and home is depicted for all of five minutes before her parents stage an intervention, ambushing the girl at home with friends, family and Mike (RuPaul), an ambassador for True Directions, a conversion therapy centre in the country. Soon, Megan finds herself at the True Directions HQ, a large wood clad house finished in the aforementioned pinks, greens and blues. It’s a strange bit of set design that will seem ‘fabulous’ to some but nauseating to most. The gag, of course, is that the True Directions team is deeply closeted and repressed, especially Rock (Eddie Cibrian), the vested toy boy who’s bossed around by his mother Mary, the harridan matriarch played by Cathy Moriarty.
Megan joins a small group of boys and girls who fall on different parts of the LGBT spectrum, and what ensues is about an hour of lame jokes and innuendo – some land, most don’t. We see the boys learn how to chop wood, fix cars, and spit on the ground like real men. Meanwhile, the girls are taught about make-up, pretty dresses and all the homemaking skills that you can imagine. Temptation abounds though, especially when Rock works the chainsaw in his denim short shorts, or when he positions a rake handle between his legs like a big wooden phallus. Again, it’s a film that only the youngest of teenagers could find funny.
Infuriatingly, the MPAA – that crusty cabal who recline in their draylon sofas as they judge what Americans can and can’t watch – stamped an NC-17 on this vanilla pantomime, forcing Babbit to make cuts. What But I’m a Cheerleader needed was the complete opposite. It needed John Waters. It needed an unrated release. Even Alexander Payne could have brought some transgressive bite, although he was busy making Election, one of the best high school comedies of all time. However, But I’m a Cheerleader found its cult audience, and they should love this new Blu-ray release.