Embarrassing admission: when Bring It On (2000) came out in the movie theaters, my friends from high school and I saw it in the theater, twice. If you are unfamiliar with this film, then bless you. I congratulate you on making it this far in life without being exposed to it. So what is the big deal? It is a film about cheerleading. Now, I am not trying to play some masculinity card, and there are moments in the movie where the male counterparts have their sexuality questioned. I am also open to seeing any piece of cinema so long as the plot makes sense. The problem with this one is that it has not aged well, and is not exactly be appealing to my demographic anyway.
Bring It On brings us into the hyper world of cheerleading with the transition in power from one captain to the next for the squad at Rancho Carne High School. The team’s legendary leader, Big Red (Lindsay Sloane), is graduating and the presumptive next in line, Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), eagerly awaits being named to the position. When that moment comes, she launches straight into her first practice with a complex workout that gets one of her teammates injured. Thus they now need to find a replacement. After sitting through a series of “hilarious” (there are not enough quotation marks in the world for this), they settle on a new girl to the school, Missy Pantone (Eliza Dushku), who is there only because she is a serious gymnast and the school has no other outlet for her skills. At Missy’s first practice, though, she recognizes their routine from a competitor of her former school. Missy takes Torrance to East Compton High School where they learn that Big Red had been videoing their practices and using their dance numbers to gain trophy after trophy for Rancho Carne. This point is driven home when the East Compton captain, Isis (Gabrielle Union), confronts their rivals and lays down the title threat. Realizing that she must, in fact, “bring it on,” Torrance hires a shifty dance instructor who gives them a routine that they take with them to their first competition. As it turns out, that instructor had sold the same bill of goods to another school, and the resulting humiliation nearly results in Torrance losing her captaincy. What restores her confidence is a mixtape made for her by her new love interest, Missy’s brother, Cliff (Jesse Bradford). Its punk lineup gives her the boost she needs to create a whole new routine for the team, which they use at the national competition. Though Rancho Carne comes in second to, you guessed it, East Compton, they come away from the competition satisfied by the fact that they had competed well with original material.
One of the more annoying aspects of Bring It On is the whole “cheer-lingo,” and I guess I am participating in it by coming up with that word. Ugh. Still, I suppose it helps to create the world in which this movie takes place. What is most troubling about it is its treatment of male cheerleaders. As I mentioned at the beginning, it did not age well. At Rancho Carne, the football players make fun of their fellows on the sidelines, referring to them by a derogatory word for homosexuals that I do not care to repeat. One of the male cheerleaders, Les (Huntley Ritter), is portrayed as being possibly gay, though thankfully they do not make his character over-the-top. On the other side of the coin is the other male cheerleader they focus on, Jan (Nathan West), who is basically committing a light form of rape whenever he lifts one of his female teammates into the air. That is not just me, square Catholic movie reviewer, seeing something that may or may not be happening. Jan pointedly admits to slipping his finger into places where it should not go every time he performs a certain move, and it is demonstrated in one scene. Overall, the problem with the way these things are presented in the film is that they rely on tired stereotypes that would not fly if this film were done today.
Outside of these things, I am not really sure what else to say about Bring It On. Until recently, I had not seen it in almost twenty years, and I definitely look at it differently now than when I was in my twenties. I will say that I admire Torrance’s positive attitude throughout, even when she finds out that her first boyfriend, Aaron (Richard Hillman), is cheating on her. There is also a good lesson here about the value of integrity. But outside of these things, there is really nothing else to see. Nostalgia is not enough for me to ever want to watch this again.