"You want it. I'm hot. I'm everything you're not," cheerleader captain
Torrance 'Tor' Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) leads her team in the opening cheer
in Peyton Reed's BRING IT ON. Soon thereafter, Tor raises her arms to the
sky and accidentally drops her top in front of a gym full of stunned
onlookers. (We see her from the back.)
With this promising start, the film looked to be another sassy and raunchy
spoof à la DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, which skewered the world of beauty pageants.
The hilarious DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, which also starred Dunst, was one of last
year's most underrated comedies. BRING IT ON, however, quickly goes
downhill, taking itself too seriously and ladling on every cliché in the
There is a good boy, Cliff Pantone (Jesse Bradford), who is smitten by Tor.
She, of course, loves someone else, who is unworthy of her affection. Tor
has a smart-aleck brother who is part of her sitcom family. Besides
taunting her verbally, her brother jumps in the air so that he can break
wind right in front of her face.
Jessica Bendinger's script is rampant with homophobic humor. "Are you
trying to tell me that you speak fag?" inquires cheerleader Missy Pantone
(Eliza Dushku) of her fellow cheerleader, Les (Huntley Ritter). "Oh,
fluently," Les says with raised eyebrows and a slight roll of his eyes.
Whenever the script can't think of anything else humorous, it punctuates its
sentences with homosexual epithets, figuring its audience will always find
the word "fag" funny.
The biggest cliché of all involves the poor black school, Clover, across the
tracks. The story's big scandal is that Tor's wealthy school, Rancho Carne,
stole their cheerleading routine from Clover, a little known fact. Rancho
Carne is vying for its sixth national cheerleading championship in a row,
and the Clovers look to be the squad to beat this year. Poor and willing to
lose rather than accept "any handouts", the Clovers, nevertheless, appeal to
an Oprah-style TV host for funds to travel to the nationals. Their mawkish
letter to the host starts, "Where we're from, 'cheer' isn't a word you hear
There is the obligatory tryout scene in which people do just about
everything but act like would-be cheerleaders. Not one of these auditions
is cute or original. The movie ends with dull outtakes that are so clearly
preprogrammed that they aren't really outtakes at all.
Every now and then, the story does have its moments. Flirting with Cliff in
the stands at a football game, Tor is accused of having cheer sex with him.
You know, like phone sex. No sooner has the writer introduced the idea than
she drops it entirely.
At other times, the cheerleaders start to get a little bawdy, but the camera
cuts away quickly. The few cheerleading sequences in THE REPLACEMENTS are
better that all of BRING IT ON. The former are unpretentiously funny,
whereas BRING IT ON seems so embarrassed by its own basic material that it
has to mix in everything from vomit sequences to pseudo racial conflicts.
In a movie in which little is fresh, there is one scene which doesn't feel
borrowed from a dozen other pictures. With mouths full of toothpaste, Tor
and Cliff compete at the sink for shiniest teeth and most vigorous spitting.
Now that's certainly the start of a romance made in heaven.
BRING IT ON runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for sex-related material and
language and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes