Bring It On
review by Elias Savada, 25 August 2000

In case you didn’t get a bodacious fill of summer cheerleaders and bare midriffs in The Replacements, here’s a spunky, empty-headed Southern California teen-angst rah-rah competition comedy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained after you’ve put ninety-eight minutes of your time on the back-burner watching some pretty young thangs strut their brightly-lit, PG-13 wares. Basically devoid of any parental units (dorks all anyway; no cheerleader-murdering, hitman-hiring moms from Texas), the film stars eighteen-year-old Kirsten Dunst as bright-eyed senior Torrance Shipman, the eternally optimistic leader of a nationally renown post-pubescent pom pom squad at Rancho Carne High School. (Homework: do the Spanish-to-English translation.) The fresh-faced Dunst is a good fit as the overly ambitious captain of mostly determined and some duplicitous cads and cadettes, balancing her championship stunt team as it hurdles toward a sixth straight U.S. amateur championship. She never drops the baton rallying her troops, but the role doesn’t hold a torch to her darker and more enjoyable characterizations as the Washington, DC, nitwit that brought down the Nixon administration (Dick) or the Midwestern dairy queen caught up in a murderously funny beauty contest (Drop Dead Gorgeous). The film’s weak script, the first by Jessica Bendinger, formerly a hip hop reporter for Spin Magazine, fumbles as much as the school’s dreadfully bad football team does in a victory-less season. Seems the fans couldn’t care less that the jocks are at the bad end of a 42-0 routing; they’re out to see some serious cheerleading!

The Toro cheerleaders may be the television-beautiful crčme de la crčme, thanks to bloodthirsty ex-captain Big Red (ex-Sabrina co-star Lindsay Sloane), but their reputation gets seriously tarnished when their former leader’s prize-winning routines are revealed as less than original. The unit’s glamorous pom poms wilt into a big ugly wrench. Only some quick thinking and less-than-honorable intentions gets the youngsters a trip to Daytona, Florida for the ESPN2 televised nationals, only to further embarrass themselves against a previously-snuffed group of energetic cheerleaders from the black L.A. suburb of East Compton. As expected, Torrance gives a rehashed Pattonesque Knute Rockne half-time speech. Miraculously her flustered group wipes the egg of its collective face and paints a rainbow-fresh ending that’s supposed to make up for the mess they’ve made. Gee, we’re sorry. Gosh, thanks.

Helmer Peyton Reed’s small screen remakes of The Love Bug (1997) and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1995) were pabulum for the Disney crowd; Bring It On, his minor-league theatrical feature debut, will be forgotten as soon as the school year begins. The grade school flashbacks, pompous urban legends, and bikini carwash and barf sequences don’t cut it. There’s a heapful of slo-mo shtick about dropped spirit sticks and other dreamlike fantasies that supposedly reveals the demands and pressures of the sport. For the most part, the humor just isn’t there. The cast tries to make up for the deficiencies of the writer and director. Eliza Dushku, who stars as Faith in the WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and was featured as the resourceful daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, has blossomed into a fine actress. Her Missy Pantone is an ugly duckling Los Angeles transfer anti-student making a last minute tryout as a replacement for an injured “player.” When she impresses smiley face Torrance with her gymnastic abilities, the "cheertator" (not my invention) takes on the challenge of changing the new recruit’s scraggy wet hair look into the perfectly preppy perky teen dream. Jesse Bradford is Missy’s retro reject brother Cliff, a vintage dude immersed in 1970s British punk bands. He’s more interested in reading The Naked Ape—in the bleachers during the football game—until his attentions become much more earnest. Yup, those serious cheerleading gals. He’s got a crush on Torrance.

Gabrielle Union scores well in her few appearances as Isis, Torrance’s counterpart for the The East Compton Clovers, the rival squad that has a hard time accepting the olive branch extended by the San Diego cheer thieves. The trio of Natina Reed, Shamari Fears, and Brandi Williams, who comprise the music group Blaque, hold their defiant heads high in their feature debut supporting Union.

Ian Roberts has a funny turn as a high-priced drill sergeant choreographer, his black leather master-of-the-dance routine one of the few memorable moments in the film. Cody McMains makes a flatulent and hilarious contribution as Torrance’s little brother from Hell, Justin. Flipping the coin, Richard Hillman makes no remarkable dent as the dense Aaron, Torrance’s double-dipping college boyfriend.

Bring It On is a forgettable, hackneyed effort -- a presumptuous, feel-good movie that is a bubble-headed mess.

Directed by:
Peyton Reed

Kirsten Dunst
Eliza Dushku
Jesse Bradford
Gabrielle Union
Natina Reed
Shamari Fears
Brandi Williams

Written by:
Jessica Bendinger




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