August 27, 2000 -- "Bring it On" is a sports movie with a twist. Instead of being about baseball, basketball, football or hockey, it is about cheerleading.
Cheerleading is not widely accepted as a sport, but rather is considered a peripheral form of entertainment performed on the sidelines of "real" sporting events. Girl cheerleaders dress up in skimpy outfits and do a few elementary gymnastics routines, some provocative dance moves and cheer. The boy cheerleaders do some basic tumbling passes, some lifts, hold up some human pyramids and do some body tosses and catches. It isn't real dance and it isn't real gymnastics, but something in between.
The story centers around Torrance Shipman (played by Kirsten Dunst of "The Virgin Suicides"). Shipman says that her whole life is cheerleading at upscale Rancho Carne High School (doesn't Rancho Carne mean ranch meat?) in San Diego. This school has almost no blacks and no Chicanos and the cheerleaders have won the national title five years in a row. The movie opens with a very funny cheerleading routine which includes the lines, "I'm sexy, I'm cute, I'm popular to boot. I'm bitchin' great hair, the boys all love to stare."
Shortly after Shipman is elected captain of the cheerleading squad she finds out that every routine the Toros squad has used in the last five years to win the championship was stolen from an inner city cheerleading squad called the Clovers. Shown up at one of their own games, The Toros have to come up with a new routine. The rich kids try to buy their way out of trouble by hiring a choreographer named Sparky (hilariously played by comedian Ian Roberts).
While Shipman is desperately trying to get the squad back to the national finals, she is falling for a new boy in school, Cliff Pantone (played by Jesse Bradford of "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries"). Cliff's sister Missy (played by Eliza Dushku who played the part of Faith on the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") tries out for the squad against her better judgement and Shipman overrules her teammates to put her on the squad. Missy is an accomplished gymnast, but there is no gymnastics team at the school. She sees cheerleading as a poor substitute, but better than nothing.
Through bitter experience, Shipman finds out that the squad will have to come up with its own routine and the only way to win the national championship is through hard work. With the help of Cliff, she learns to believe in herself and rely on herself. There's an interesting rivalry between Shipman and Isis, the tough, independent captain of the rival inner city cheerleading squad, the Clovers (the Clovers include three members of the pop singing group Blaque). Isis is played by Gabrielle Union of the movie "She's All That").
The movie is pretty funny, using a combination of clever lines, slapstick, sexual and bathroom humor. In fact, if you took out the raunchy, gross humor, this would be very much like a Disney movie. The humor succeeds, in part, because the movie establishes the characters first and then works off of that. Dunst, Bradford, Dushku and Union are all very good. I found it a little disappointing, though, that Shipman fails to discover anything more important in life than cheerleading. The screenplay was written by Jessica Bendinger, who is fond of national cheerleading competitions. Director Peyton Reed does a good job keeping the various elements of the story under control. The choreography and stunt work on the cheerleading numbers was well done. This film rates a C+.
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