Bring It On (2000)

May the best moves win.

Bring It On was a surprise hit when it was released back in 2000, and even though it has spawned many unnecessary sequels over the past decade or so, it’s easy to see why the original was such a success, as it was one of the first films that depicted cheerleaders as spirited, athletic, graceful, and most importantly, real people. Colorfully shot, attractively cast and snappily written, Bring It On may not win any Oscars, but it’s a seamlessly enjoyable ride that makes for a fun night in.

San Diego’s Rancho Carne High School, the Toros cheerleading squad has got spirit, spunk, sass and a killer routine that’s sure to land them the national championship trophy for the sixth year in a row. But for newly-elected team captain Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), the Toros’ road to cheer glory takes a surprising turn when she discovers that their perfectly-choreographed routines were in fact stolen from the Clovers, a hip-hop squad from East Compton, by the Toros’ former captain. While the Toros attempt to develop a new routine, the Clovers, led by squad captain Isis (Gabrielle Union), have issues of their own, struggling to scrounge up enough cash to cover their travel expenses for the championships. With time running out and the pressure mounting, both captains drive their squads to the point of exhaustion: Torrance, hell bent on saving the Toros’ reputation, and Isis more determined than ever to see that the Clovers finally get the recognition that they deserve. But only one team can bring home the title, so as the tagline suggests, may the best moves win.

Kirsten Dunst bares all for 'Bring It On.'
Kirsten Dunst bares all for ‘Bring It On.’

Bring It On is briskly directed by Peyton Reed, Yes Man (2008), as he keeps the picture bright and ‘cheerful’ with plenty of exhilarating and inventive routines scattered throughout, although, it’s interesting to note that most of the stunts performed by the teams in the national competition are illegal at the high school level according to the National Federation Interscholastic Spirit Association. The screenplay by Jessica Bendinger, Stick It (2006), is sharp and consistently amusing, it’s also genuinely thought-provoking at times as it tries to answer many stereotypical ‘myths’ about cheerleading in general such as, are all male cheerleaders gay? Are all cheerleaders airheads? And is cheerleading actually a sport? Sadly, the film does fall into the touchy discriminatory ‘grey area’ as the black cheerleaders have no real humanity of their own and viewers are not given the same insight into their backgrounds and personalities as the white girls, beyond their under-privileged lifestyle. The picture’s ‘blacks’ versus ‘whites’ narrative, while entertaining, is rather predictable as it would be unthinkable for a Hollywood film today to have the disadvantaged black people lose against the pampered whites, but there are several interesting touches sprinkled throughout the script keeping the picture fresh such as Torrence’s brother’s ‘Cheerleading = Death’ t-shirt.

In the long run, it’s the film’s cast who truly bring the picture to life as their flair and liveliness is difficult to overlook. Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman (2002), gives her all in a feisty yet mature performance as cheerleading captain Torrance Shipman, who is determined to go all-out for her squadron, the Toros. Dunst as a whole is always stirring to watch on screen and was perfectly cast at the time of the picture’s release as she was still young enough to portray a convincing high school character, although her career has progressed as she’s matured since then. Eliza Dushku from television’s Buffy adds a nice touch as the new girl on the squad, Missy Pantone, the rebellious punk gymnast; even Jesse Bradford, Flags of Our Fathers (2006), nails it as Missy’s brother Cliff Pantone, who also serves as a romantic interest for Torrance. Most ‘love interest’ characters are generally either dull or unlikable in teen flicks, but Bradford is perhaps one of the few who comes off as likeable and even relatable as he brings an honest and playful flair to an otherwise typical role. Duo Clare Kramer, The Rules of Attraction (2002), and Nicole Bilderback, Clueless (1995), are amusing as the bossy, stuck-up cheerleaders Courtney and Whitney and play well off their co-stars.

Someone must have dropped the Spirit Stick!
Someone must have dropped the Spirit Stick!

On the other side of the tracks, Gabrielle Union, Bad Boys II (2003), gives a credible performance as the headstrong captain of the East Compton Clovers, while Shamari Fears, Natina Reed, and Brandi Williams, who form the singing trio Blaque, are fun as her fiery mates Lava, Jenelope and LaFred, and also sing the film’s theme ‘As If,’ which is featured on the Bring It On soundtrack. It’s worth mentioning that Ian Roberts, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), is a welcome addition to the picture at its midway point as modern dance-influenced choreographer, Sparky Polastri, who claims that ‘Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded,’ and is terrific in the role which fashioned the popular term ‘spirit fingers.’

Despite its various flaws, Bring it On still manages to fulfill its sole purpose, to entertain and amuse; it’s well acted, the cast share great chemistry together, particularly female leads, Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku, while its music and routines are exciting and fun. Bring It On stands up to repeated viewings with its quotable dialogue and it’s easy to understand why it has become a modern classic amongst teenagers.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Bring It On is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia