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Review: Spirited Canadian comedy ‘Don’t Talk to Irene’ tempers its sugar with just enough sour

Michelle McLeod in the movie "Don't Talk to Irene."
(Gravitas Ventures)

The winsome Canadian comedy “Don’t Talk to Irene” combines a high school misfit movie with a backstage musical and adds a few fantastical flourishes for an uplifting tale about an outsider finding her place in the world. It’s so sweet it just might give you a cavity.

But writer-director Pat Mills balances the sugary sentimentality of the story with the right amount of sour in his smart and snappy dialogue. His heroine, Irene (Michelle McLeod) is a chubby, overprotected dork who wants to be a cheerleader, despite the protestations of her mom Lydia (Anastasia Phillips), a former pepster herself. When a cheer squad initiation prank goes wrong, Irene and her bully Sarah (Aviva Mongillo) are suspended and put on volunteer duty at the local retirement home.

Irene, who receives spiritual guidance in the form of Geena Davis via the “League of Their Own” poster on her ceiling, is ever enterprising and decides she’ll make cheerleading happen. She marshals the residents, staff and her flamboyant queer friend Tesh (Andy Reid), and armed with a few Milli Vanilli tapes, makes her own squad.

This cute movie hits all the heartwarming notes — adorable seniors, sassy gender-noncomforming kid and a love interest for Irene. It all wraps up perfectly, and though it can seem a bit pat, “Don’t Talk to Irene” is sincere enough to earn it.

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‘Don’t Talk to Irene’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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