A Cheerleading Extravaganza
"Cheerleaders are dancers gone retarded," claims choreographer Sparky Polastri in Bring It On. Hired to whip a high school cheerleading squad into shape for a crucial regional competition, he appears to use Bob Fosse and Adolph Hitler as role models. Played by Ian Roberts (I Dreamed of Africa), the outrageous Sparky emerges as a highlight of this energetic teen comedy. In addition, Kirsten Dunstís enthusiastic star turn as Torrance Shipman, the squadís highly motivated new captain, is something to cheer about.
A former cheerleader in real life, Dunst (Drop Dead Gorgeous) delivers a powerful physical performance thatís right up there with Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans and Jennifer Lopez in Selena. Vivacious and perky, she bounces through this film like a human dynamo, performing those vigorous cheerleading routines to perfection. But she also acts up a storm as a San Diego teenager obsessed with leading the Toros, her five-time national championship squad, to another victory. When someone reminds her, "Donít worry, itís only cheerleading," Torrance replies "But I AM only cheerleading." With that one comment, Dunst made Torrance sound so sincere it saddened me --- even in the midst of all the laughter.
Helping Torrance with her mission is new pal Missy Pantone (Eliza Dushku), a hard-core gymnast turned cheerleader. Dushku (Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) projects comic sarcasm as a transfer student who informs Torrance that her predecessor "puts the itch in bitch" for stealing cheers from an East Los Angeles squad called the Clovers. After Missy takes Torrance to see this fantastic African-American group, led by its charismatic captain (Gabrielle Union of Sheís All That), fierce competition between the two squads ensues.
Cheering the Toros on, though sometimes reluctantly, is Missyís brother, portrayed by Jesse Bradford (King of the Hill), a young actor with the most charming crooked smile since Montgomery Clift. Heís very amusing when flirting with Dunst in a cute teeth brushing scene --- and almost matches her energy in one explosive guitar-strumming sequence.
Thereís not much of a story here, but that didnít bother me. I was too wrapped up in the filmís exuberant cheerleading numbers and appealing characters. Also, I found the cheerleader tryouts hilarious. A variety of unusual teens competed for membership on the Toros squad. Ballet, stripper, and musical comedy wannabes were joined by some of the most unenthusiastic, clumsy students imaginable. It was great fun to watch each audition!
With so much going for this movie, itís disappointing that director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jessica Bendinger included a disgusting vomiting incident, some risque cheers, and frequent jokes about gay male cheerleaders in their first feature film. Still, by focusing on a main character with a sense of honor, they elevated their movie above many recent teen comedies. I couldnít help admiring Torranceís attempts to make things come out right for both squads, in spite of their intense rivalry.
Itís about time a movie celebrated cheerleaders and their incredible talents. Three cheers for Bring It On.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for sex-related material and language.)