I’m not going to insult your intelligence and tell you that “Bring It On”, a movie about white cheerleaders from the ‘burb going up against black cheerleaders from the ‘hood, is anything but mindless eye candy. It’s a pretty silly movie, in fact, and its fantasy-inspired interactions between the white cheerleading squad led by Kirsten Dunst (“Spiderman”) and the black cheerleading squad led by Gabrielle Union is a lot funnier for its implausibility than all of the movie’s attempts at humor.
“Bring It On” stars Dunst as the new captain of a cheerleading squad at a rich, mostly white high school. Trouble arises when Dunst’s Torrance learns that the only reason her squad has won the national cheerleading title 5 years in a roll is because their previous captain had been stealing the routines of Union’s inner city squad, the Clovers of East Compton. With the help of tough chick newcomer Missy (Eliza Dushku), Torrance attempts to whip her spoiled team into shape and get them ready for the finals. But come on, can a bunch of white kids really beat a bunch of black kids fair and square? As black comedians like to remind us, “White folk ain’t got no rhythm!” Or do they?
Appreciable more for the sake of perverse voyeurism than anything else, “Bring It On” is a pleasure to watch if you don’t take it seriously. The film’s opening segment, when an anxious Torrance dreams of being nominated captain of the squad, really defines the film to a T. The dream involves a cheer routine where our young and nubile teens strut their stuff in their short mini-skirts and tight tops and declare how sexy they are. A truer cheer has never been cheered.
Covered wall to wall in appealing bodies and Valley girl-inspired attitude, “Bring It On” doesn’t have much to offer, but oh my does it give everything it has. The film is so lacking in substance, and Jessica Bendinger’s screenplay is so lacking in originality, that you have to wonder how director Peyton Reed could keep a film with so little to offer so vibrant. By making the whole movie as visually stimulating as possible, Reed makes “Bring It On” a fun treat to chew on. Have no fear, your brain won’t get a workout with this one.
As the incredibly cheerful Torrance, Kirsten Dunst seems completely at home. Although I could do without the clich’ characters provided by Eliza Dushku (“The New Guy”) and Jesse Bradford, who plays her too-cool-for-everything brother Cliff. Torrance’s brat little brother is also a little irritating, and Nicole Bilderback and Tsianina Joelson plays the cheerleading squad’s conniving bitches. There is some humor at the expense of male cheerleaders, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were completely mean, since the male cheerleaders can give back as good as they get, if not better.
As mentioned, “Bring It On” is not the most creative screenplay ever written, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bright. There is a lot of catchy dialogue, and sometimes you feel like you’ve entered a “Twilight Zone” world where only cheerleaders can possibly understand what the cheerleaders in the movie are saying. It helps that the actors are all good enough to deliver their lines with conviction, making Bendinger’s screenplay sound a lot more clever than it probably is.
There’s no mistaking that there’s a very energetic pep to the whole thing, and just like Dushku’s hesitant Missy, we are drawn into the world of cheerleading kicking and screaming — at least at first. These people take their jobs so seriously that you can’t help but feel a measure of respect for them, perhaps even marvel at their total dedication. Also, you can’t help but wonder if these kids could translate this energy into something else — say, studying — that they might all be Einsteins by the time they finish high school.
Even those who have never entertained the idea of school spirit will be caught up by the film’s many elaborate cheering stunts. The film is never boring and never drags, which is really all you could ask for in something as light as “Bring It On”. The whole angle with the white cheerleaders vs. black cheerleaders is all a little silly and superfluous, but a not-entirely-unexpected ending “makes everything all right”, so I guess we shouldn’t feel bad that these white kids had stolen the black kids’ rightful victories for the last 5 years. Right?
This isn’t brain surgery, folks. It’s a cheerleader movie. And “Bring It On” has everything — and at the same time, lacks everything — that that particular classification entails.
Peyton Reed (director) / Jessica Bendinger (screenplay)
CAST: Kirsten Dunst …. Torrance Shipman
Eliza Dushku …. Missy Pantone
Jesse Bradford …. Cliff Pantone
Gabrielle Union …. Isis
Clare Kramer …. Courtney
Nicole Bilderback …. Whitney