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Bring It On

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bring It On

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford
Director: Peyton Reed
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: August 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Rini Bell, Tsianina Joelson, Huntley Ritter, Shamari Fears

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Who needs to be dependent on the rest of the world for our oil or worry about the sluggishness of electric cars or the expense and impracticalities of solar energy? Hell, all we have to do is to bottle the energy exhibited by the young women in Peyton Reed's "Bring It On" and we could run our cars for the next ten years without needing another burst of puissance.

Since this picture will considered by some to be another one of those allegedly dumb high-school exploitation movies dumped by the studios during the dog days of August, I checked the comments of the critics and the youngsters alike as we were leaving the New York theater where a screening took place. The high-school kids were mumbling "same ol' same ol'" and "predictable" and "trots out every cliche in the teen books," the sophisticated critics who have been reviewing movies since the Jurassic Age were trotting out cheerful news like "A lot of fun!" and "Just what we needed," while I piped up with "Boy, am I glad that the French movie with the talking heads never arrived at the screening room so I could head over to see this one instead." "Bring It On" exudes some of the most boundless energy I've seen since the last Jackie Chan flick.

How you feel about this movie may depend on your response to Nicholas Hytner's recent "Center Stage," about the world of dance--not just ballet, but also salsa, modern, jazz and aerobics. To me that was an altogether refreshing adventure filled with the vigor that makes Hollywood the envy of world cinema. To some people whom I'd consider dead from the neck down, that film was an example of how "Hytner has prostituted himself with banalities." I remember one guy's saying, "I just can't get interested in a movie if I don't get into the story."

But while some movies are plot-driven--the sort that comprise the most popular films worldwide--others are character-driven, and yet others, like "Center Stage" are music-and-dance propelled. You could call "Bring It On" an example of a music-and-dance propelled because despite what some of us think about cheerleading (especially if we went to high school and college decades ago), the women and men today are a far cry from the "Fight fiercely, Harvard" types that went through their ordinary motions way back when. In fact "Bring It On" takes us to the world of high school talent who are competing in regional and national championships of cheerleading, participating in a sport to them--and to many in the audience--that is more important than the football games to which they are usually mere backdrop.

"Bring It On" centers on Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) who has just been elected captain of her high-school cheerleading squad, to the dismay of her opponents and ultimately to the disgust of the retiring captain. What Torrance does not realize is that while the judges at the competitions rate originality highly, the captain of last year's team actually stole all of the steps and techniques from a razzle-dazzle group in a mostly African-American school, the Clovers, especially from their captain, Isis (Gabrielle Union). Fortunately, Torrance's team eventually proves able to choreograph its own steps largely with the help of a first-class gymnast, Missy (Eliza Dushku), who had just moved into the community together with her handsome, guitar-playing brother Cliff (Jesse Bradford).

While a couple of the critics who had seen this movie at test screenings complained that scripter Jessica Bendinger trots out cliches that were dated even twenty years ago, including some homophobic commentary, the dialogue is no way the movie's strong point anyway. We've got to write off the narrative and simply sit back in utter amazement at the vigor, the animations, the unstoppable nervous energy of Kirsten Dunst's troupe and particularly Ms. Dunst's own charisma both as a terpsichore of the football field and a radiant personality that will obviously fall for the new guy in town. Her conflict with the African-American captain, Isis, who resents the theft of her entire performance moves by this rich, white-girl troupe, is of course going to be followed by a sentimental mending of the ways.

But what the heck. If you're like me and you had to put up with the most insipid cheerleading imaginable while sitting in the grandstands warming up with your flask of bourbon, this movie will show you why young or old, it's better to be young.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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