Sugar Town

Oct 6, 1999 at 12:00 am

With all its spoofing on not-so-gracefully aging rock stars and the light and airy nature of life in Los Angeles, Sugar Town means to combine the irreverent pop music hilarity of Spinal Tap with Steve Martin’s sunny and funny L.A. Story (1991), and the premillennial tension of the West Coast’s over-30 set. But the dish doesn’t taste as sweet as it sounds.

Sugar Town is a slightly weird comedy that was made on a short schedule. And – even though it has a few great moments – it shows. Co-writers/co-directors Allison Anders and Kurt Voss toss together a loosely knit group of still-hopeful characters – an ex-junkie studio musician; a cutthroat, kleptomaniac sycophant who wants to be Fiona Apple; and a band of old rockers who were "really hot in the ’80s." It’s like a dandelion salad; different, but you might not want to go back for seconds.

The one important thing these characters have in common is that they all breathe the same smog of pretense and ambition, even the gaunt movie production designer Liz (Ally Sheedy), who comes off as the only sane one in the bunch. The other exception would be 14-year-old Nerve (Vincent Berry), a junior-high Goth rocker who has grown up in a religious cult until his spaced-out mother dumps him on the front steps of his not-yet-DNA-tested father. Enter washed-up rock star Clive (John Taylor), who is busy making horrible demo tapes of "fusion soul" with his equally pathetic bandmates and denying midlife with his actress-girlfriend, Eva (Rosanna Arquette).

The rest of the lineup – riddled with mundane personality profiles – becomes almost annoying at times. Everybody’s either getting their chakra fixed or trying to cop dope between rehab stories – and without the power-packed punchlines one hopes for. There’s space for some really funny stuff in Sugar Town, but unfortunately a few stray one-liners fail to fill it up.

Then, of course, things get suddenly serious with a few strangely moving scenes – a guy makes a pass at his brother’s pregnant wife and later she gives birth to yet another organic farm gnome for her studio guitarist husband to outfit in tank tops and Birkenstocks. These folks are no material for VH1’s "Where are They Now?" But they might be perfect for the brand-new series I’m rooting for: "Who Cares?"

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