Bring It On
2000, PG-13, 98 min. Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Nicole Bilderback, Tsianina Joelson.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 1, 2000
Catfights, navel-baring, a Top 40 soundtrack, sugarcoated sentiments: Bring It On brings them all in spades. But what could have been another insipid entry in the teen movie craze actually rises above (okay, more like scrapes by) the inadequacy of most flicks aimed at the zit-popping generation. Credit goes to director Peyton Reed, whose previous work includes directing stints on HBO's Mr. Show and Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade. Thankfully, the scathing black humor of those shows appears to have rubbed off on Reed. Although Reed and screenwriter Jessica Bendinger treat cheerleading as a sport worthy of respect, even an art form, you still get the feeling they're smirking their way through the entire affair. They regularly toy with the audience and the audience's expectations, feeding us a different line of thought every two minutes: Cheerleaders are people too, you know; cheerleaders are plastic people; at least cheerleaders are bitchy fun plastic people. Least interesting are the (at times, very long) stretches where we're forced to buy these kids as real people. Yes, of course, cheerleaders are people, but Bring It On's cheerleaders, with their Nokia and Noxzeema lifestyles, are not. For the most part, the cast of mostly unknowns inhabit their cardboard cut-out characters well. Whatever stereotype they're asked to fulfill (brainiac, sensitive gay guy, etc.), they do so engagingly. Kirsten Dunst, as Torrance, the cheerleading captain who must lead her squad to nationals against the rival East Compton squad, does an all-right job here, although occasionally her easily breakable, bubblegum exterior is a bit too much to stomach. Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Eliza Dushku turns in a very slight variation on her rockin' Faith role (still hell-bent on nonconformity, but unfortunately, no impaling of her cheer compatriots here). And indie regular Jesse Bradford nicely plays Torrance's love interest, a dog collar-wearing, the Clash-listening deviant who still harbors every guy's fantasy of nailing the cheerleading captain. Overall, Bring It On is a moderately entertaining, mostly inoffensive piece of filmmaking. However, slightly creepy is the depiction of the cheerleaders' sexuality. There's no sex here, only vague references, or behind-closed-doors, wink-wink nudges, and Torrance and her dog-collar boyfriend share but one brief and very chaste kiss. But what we do get is a whole lot of nekkidness: teens prancing around locker rooms half-clothed (um, Debbie Does Dallas, anyone?) and a bikini-clad carwash to rival Cool Hand Luke's wet jiggly fest. So, when exactly did it become okay for 16-year-olds to be sex objects? None of them are actually having sex (yeah, right); instead, it's this weird, “look, but don't touch” ethos that, frankly, feels very dirty-old-man-ish to me.