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
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
"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