Film Reviews

Gimme an 'F'

Following in the grand cinematic tradition of cheerleading films-- movies such as Gimme an 'F,' Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and Debbie Does Dallas (both the original and the why-bother remakes)--Bring It On is about beautiful, young girls in short skirts who have to overcome the fact that they suck.

On the first front, the film does a remarkable job. Not since David Hasselhoff's turn as Boner in the aforementioned 1976 nudefest Revenge of the Cheerleaders has the world seen such use of nubile, up-and-coming star flesh. Kirsten Dunst, still most famous for getting to make out with Brad Pitt when she was 12 in Interview With the Vampire, apparently believes that if you can't have an outstanding body of work, you may as well show that you have an outstanding body--albeit in a PG-13, JCPenney catalog kind of way. As if cheerleading uniforms weren't enough, the perv contingent gets theirs early and often with Dunst dropping trou down to her pretty cotton undies in an ingeniously meaningless dressing-room scene, and sporting belly shirts and sports bras non-stop through the closing credits. The film was originally called Cheer Fever, and if the studio changed the title because they feared that audiences might confuse it with the lesbian-themed comedy But I'm a Cheerleader, they may have made a grave miscalculation. There's definitely room for a crossover hit here.

It's not until the plot surfaces that Bring It On really begins to suffer. Some sort of strange hybrid of Sweet Valley High, Rocky, Drop Dead Gorgeous, American Pie, and Birth of a Nation, Bring It On is the story of how Dunst's Torrance Shipman--the newly appointed captain of the affluent, mostly white, and five-time national champion Rancho Carne High School Toros cheerleading squad--learns to her horror that the team has been stealing the routines of the poor, black, inner-city East Compton Clovers for years. And now she must overcome inner-squad strife, boy trouble, and advanced chemistry to find the right way to win--especially since the Toros must go head-to-head with the Clovers in this year's cheerleading competition.

The film opens as if it might be some sort of Election-esque satire, with a cheerleading routine involving chants such as, "I'm sexy, I'm cute, I'm popular to boot" and rhyming the word "guess" with "Guys want to touch my chest." But it soon delves into standard, ready-for-pre-teen piffle, introducing every cliché known to the genre but refusing to develop any of them into anything resembling a real subplot, and occasionally peppering the action with four-letter words, a couple of out-of-nowhere blood-and-barf gross-out jokes, and enough references to finger-banging to keep the South Park kids happy. But the most consistent refrain is the never-ending parade of sight gags that prove the validity of the best line in the movie: "Cheerleaders are dancers who've gone retarded." It's all rather amusing--but not necessarily the way the filmmakers might have intended.

The other intention that may be misconstrued by mean-spirited and jaded reviewers is the underlying socio-political theme hinted at in the film poster and promotional materials, which plays up the Toros and Clovers squaring off in the penultimate cheer-off, a contest to see not necessarily which is best, but to prove that they are equally deserving of each other's respect. Too bad they aren't deserving of equal screen time. The token progressive notion here is: Inner-city cheerleaders are as fun to watch as white cheerleaders, but since there's no way they can carry a film, we'll limit their screen time to 15 minutes and--warning, "plot" (and that word is used lightly) spoiler ahead--just let them win at the end.

Gimme an "F" indeed--and an F-you.

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Scott Kelton Jones