Typical All-American girl Megan (Natasha Lyonne) realizes that she may be anything but when she is forcibly sent by her parents to True Directions, a homosexual rehabilitation center, run by gay-hating Mary (Cathy Moriarty). There, she encounters a strange new world or rules and regulations, populated by fey boys and butch girls, as well as romance, in the form of tomboy Graham (Clea DuVall).

Rookie director Jamie Babbit has taken a potentially great subject to satirize and made a silly hash of it. But I'm a Cheerleader is a candy-coated, completely negligible bit of fluff that plays like emasculated John Waters. If anything, the film might prove popular among real homophobes because the images of gays and lesbians she presents are so stereotypical and off-putting. The boys are all mincing, spineless dweebs and the ultra-fey presence of Ru Paul Charles as an ex-gay who is supposed to coach them back into so-called manliness helps not a whit. A scene that has the boys drooling over his splayed crotch while he fixes a car is rather unintentionally hilarious. (After this and his abysmal appearance on the VH1 Diana Ross tribute, it should be said that a fierce wig, gown and attitude are simply not enough, even for a most-of-the-time transvestite performer.) The girls are either moustached diesels or utterly sexless nerds. The camp's transformative exercises, which consist of things like wood-chopping for the boys and changing diapers and scrubbing floors for the girls, have a stupidity that is downright primitive.

Here are some examples of the film's humor: Mary's son is named 'Rock' and acts like a go-go boy on parole; there's a lesbian named 'Sinead'; the gay bar the rehabbers sneak off to is called 'The Cocksucker.' Two older gay men (Wesley Mann, Richard Moll) who give succor to True Directions dropouts are nothing more than a pair of ridiculous, sniping freaks. Moriarty tries like hell to be Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, but comes off as stridently one-note. Mink Stole and a near-unrecognizable, avuncular Bud Cort play Megan's parents, who seem ever so much weirder than she could ever dream of being. The angelic Julie Delpy has a brief cameo as a character who, with typical obviousness, is simply referred to in the credits as 'Lipstick Lesbian.'

Lyonne is one of the freshest young talents in movies today and the movie shames her. She manages to convey her usual likeability and salvational, built-in b.s. detector in the film's opening (and best) scenes, which have her aghast at the hideously sloppy make-out techniques of her supposedly perfect jock boyfriend. DuVall, who resembles a young Glenda Jackson, is also gifted and the scenes the two share have a lovely calm to them that is a relief from the screechingly obvious direction and writing.

--David Noh