Irony hangs like a lead weight over But I'm A Cheerleader, a send-up of homosexual rehab camps that affects a hysterical tone which couldn't be further from the deadpan sting of good satire. For starters, there's the sweeping irony that such camps are an ideal setting for budding young homosexuals to come into their own and flourish. But around that obvious point dangle many smaller, clunkier ironies, beginning with a cast that includes John Waters regular Mink Stole as a prudish Christian housewife, Night Court's Richard "Bull" Moll as a flaming militant, and an out-of-drag RuPaul as an "ex-gay" counselor. The camp, called True Directions, is run by a domineering shrew (Cathy Moriarty, in a performance better suited to a women-in-prison picture) who, in yet another irony, is oblivious to her strapping son's own homoerotic tendencies. At the center of this calamity is poor Natasha Lyonne, who tries a variation on her winning performance as a baffled teenager in Slums Of Beverly Hills, but gets swallowed whole by all the garishness. Sent away to True Directions after her friends and family pick up on hints of lesbianism—a taste for models, vegetarianism, and Melissa Etheridge—Lyonne has a relationship with a tough girl (Clea DuVall) that counts as the film's sole, cloying stab at earnestness. But at least their scenes provide a brief respite from director Jamie Babbit's broad comic style; even the simplest joke is beaten down by hot-pink sets, crudely synthesized music cues, and overwrought performances. Bright and gleefully confrontational, But I'm A Cheerleader is the work of a Waters disciple, but Babbit's bad taste is nowhere near as impeccable.
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