August 31, 2000

Hot Girls, Short Skirts

Print More

The cheerleader flick Bring It On is the best teen-oriented film since 1995’s Clueless, and the new movie has more heart than the Alicia Silverstone starrer because it actually tries to tackle serious issues such as class divisions, social expectations, and athletic plagiarism.

Given that it’s all too easy to crack jokes about male cheerleaders and to leer at seriously underdressed babes (read: American Beauty), I found it gratifyingly surprising that this movie tried to address something like economic iniquity. No, the movie is not a serious diatribe on issues which plague teens. Far from it.

Rather, it’s a lighthearted comedy about a cheerleading team from Rancho Grande High in SoCal. The team has won five straight national championships. The joke is that they cheer for a football team that finishes with the worst division record every year.

When Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) takes over as squad captain, she recruits transfer student Missy (Eliza Dushku, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to join the team. You see, Missy is a talented gymnast, but Rancho Grande doesn’t field a gymnastics team.

Torrance and Missy find out that the team’s routines have been ripped off from another team by Torrance’s bitch-queen predecessor. (This prompts Torrance to exclaim, “My whole cheerleading career is based on a lie!”) That other team is from the poorer, urban East Compton High.

The East Compton Clovers, led by Isis (Gabrielle Union, She’s All That), gives the Rancho Grande Toros a run for their money at regionals, and Torrance and company realize that they must raise their game if they want to win a sixth title.

The plot seems simple enough, but screenwriter Jessica Bendinger throws in subplots concerning Torrance’s good-for-nothing college boyfriend, cheerleading politics (“this is not a democracy, it’s a cheerocracy”), a romance between Missy’s brother and Torrance, and even good sportsmanship.

Torrance is all about being the best, and being the best means beating the best. Therefore, when the Clovers can’t afford the trip to the nationals in Florida, Torrance gets her dad’s company to sponsor her rivals. While Isis turns the offer down, the two team captains begin to respect one another. They even give each other tips during their rousing showdown in the final round.

Given the subject matter, the film’s participants treat cheerleading with respect and fondness. Sure, it’s a spoof on one of high school’s easiest targest for cheap laughs, but the movie remains sweetly uncynical in its attitude towards the cheerleaders’ quests.

The cast definitely “brings it” to their roles. Eliza Dushku and Gabrielle Union should break out of anonymity following their work here.

Kirsten Dunst, the star of the movie and the one who holds everything together, adds another movie to her resume of movie-stealing roles. Miss Dunst’s comic gifts allow her to seem deadly earnest while winking at the audience at the same time. With this movie, Dunst now stands a head above her fellow Gen Y actresses.

Archived article by Eddie Feng