×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bring It On

As pure a bubble gum movie as can be imagined in this cynical age, "Bring It On" routinely tries to make heroes of cheerleaders, the most mocked of high school groups. Conceived to find a new angle in cheerleading subculture, pic is actually part of a trend, following the slightly naughty "But I'm a Cheerleader" and the bump-and-grind antics in "The Replacements." It's also part of a larger tendency this year toward tales of eager, innocent youth who could easily exist in the Eisenhower era. Whether target teen aud is finally tired of trends, and whether Kirsten Dunst has nascent star appeal, will be tested. Expect barely passing grades.

With:
Torrance Shipman - Kirsten Dunst Missy Pantone - Eliza Dushku Cliff Pantone - Jesse Bradford Isis - Gabrielle Union Courtney - Clare Kramer Whitney - Nicole Bilderback Darcy - Tsianina Joelson Kasey - Rini Bell Sparky Polastri - Ian Roberts Aaron - Richard Hillman Big Red - Lindsay Sloane Justin Shipman - Cody McMains

As pure a bubble gum movie as can be imagined in this cynical age, “Bring It On” routinely tries to make heroes of cheerleaders, the most mocked of high school groups. Conceived to find a new angle in cheerleading subculture, pic is actually part of a trend, following the slightly naughty “But I’m a Cheerleader” and the bump-and-grind antics in “The Replacements.” It’s also part of a larger tendency this year toward tales of eager, innocent youth who could easily exist in the Eisenhower era. Whether target teen aud is finally tired of trends, and whether Kirsten Dunst has nascent star appeal, will be tested. Expect barely passing grades.

There are hints here and there of a more devilish sense of humor in Jessica Bendinger’s script, in which cheerleading squads — one from the rich white San Diego ‘burbs, another from poor black East Compton — battle like sports teams for the national cheerleading competish crown.

Sense of edginess appears before opening credits, as Torrance (Dunst) has a Busby Berkeley-styled nightmare in which she loses her top during a goofy squad routine, which includes lines like, “I swear we’re not whores!” (Bit is marred, though, by glimpse of Dunst’s strapless bra when she’s supposedly lost her top.)

It’s all part of Torrance’s anxiety about being selected captain of Rancho Carne High Toros cheer squad — reigning national champs — in wake of departing topper Big Red (Lindsay Sloane) and Torrance’s cheerleader b.f. Aaron (Richard Hillman), who’s thrilled to be attending Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Torrance wins the election against bitchy rivals Courtney (Clare Kramer) and Whitney (Nicole Bilderback) while having domestic battles with snotty younger bro Justin (Cody McMains). After a squad member breaks her leg, tepidly comic audition for a replacement leads to recruiting above-it-all but highly skilled transfer student Missy (Eliza Dushku), who’d rather be doing gymnastics if school only offered sport (a dubious problem, given Rancho Carne’s affluence).

Torrance locks eyes with Missy’s outsider-type bro Cliff (Jesse Bradford), but her heart remains with Aaron, even as he’s cheating on her at Dominguez Hills. First big crisis occurs when Missy storms out of practice, telling Torrance that the Toros’ routine is a total rip-off of one by the East Compton High Clovers, led by smart, competitive Isis (Gabrielle Union).

A visit to Clovers’ campus convinces Torrance that “my entire cheerleading career has been a lie!”; unable to convince her squad to drop the routine, Torrance and Co. are humiliated at a game by Isis and her Clovers, who make a surprise appearance.

Comic tone moves in two jarring directions care of tyro helmer Peyton Reed: There’s the sweet side, shown in a nice wordless scene between Torrance and Cliff brushing their teeth together in a kind of hygienic flirt, and there’s the broad side, typified by appearance of cheer squad coach-guru Sparky (Ian Roberts), a Bob Fosse wannabe who terrorizes the squad and leads to a scandal at the regional championships.

Realizing she’s been conned by Big Red, Aaron and Sparky, spunky Torrance pushes her team to come up with a whole new routine in two weeks before the nationals, aired by ESPN2 in Daytona. Thoroughly unconvincing conflicts with Cliff lead to further complications, but they’re smoothed over like lip gloss by the time trophies are handed out.

Pic succeeds in displaying the physical drive and demands of cheerleading, underlining it with the irony that the Toros squad is way better at what it does than their Clippers-like football team. Reed and editor Larry Bock miss a golden opportunity to make the turns, flips and dance steps into something kinetically thrilling, as if too much style would mar pic’s rather plain-wrap look.

Still, closing contest between Toros and Clovers reps a close facsimile of real thing, which is aired annually on ESPN’s sister network.

In a disappointing comic turn after her mysterious persona in “The Virgin Suicides,” Dunst can’t really hold pic together, showing too much thesping sweat in her efforts to make Torrance likable. Poor chemistry with Bradford is another key flaw; for a guy with some apparent attitude and deep thinking, Bradford’s Cliff is rendered nearly blank onscreen.

Dushku leaves a strong impression, as does the charismatic Union, whom the camera loves. Lensing and other tech credits lack some of the color and zap that would have given teen fantasy a bubbly look.

Bring It On

Production: A Universal release of a Universal Pictures and Beacon Pictures presentation. Produced by Marc Abraham, Thomas A. Bliss, John Ketcham. Executive producers, Armyan Bernstein, Max Wong, Caitlin Scanlon, Paddy Cullen. Co-producers, Patricia Wolff, Jessica Bendinger. Directed by Peyton Reed. Screenplay, Jessica Bendinger.

Crew: Camera (Fotokem color), Shawn Maurer; editor, Larry Bock; music, Christophe Beck; music supervisor, Billy Gottlieb; production designer, Sharon Lomofsky; supervising art director, Timothy Whidbee; set decorator, Jill McGraw; costume designer, Mary Jane Fort; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Robert Trevor Black; supervising sound editor, Cormac Funge; choreography, Anne Fletcher; cheerleading choreography, Ray Jasper, Hi-Hat; assistant director, Todd Amateau; casting, Joseph Middleton. Reviewed at Artisan Entertainment screening room, Santa Monica, Aug. 15, 2000. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: Torrance Shipman - Kirsten Dunst Missy Pantone - Eliza Dushku Cliff Pantone - Jesse Bradford Isis - Gabrielle Union Courtney - Clare Kramer Whitney - Nicole Bilderback Darcy - Tsianina Joelson Kasey - Rini Bell Sparky Polastri - Ian Roberts Aaron - Richard Hillman Big Red - Lindsay Sloane Justin Shipman - Cody McMains

More Film

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content