Bring It On

dir Peyton Reed scr Jessica Bendinger
with Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Richard Hillman, Ian Roberts, Clare Kramer, Nicole Bilderback, Nathan West, Huntley Ritter, Cody McMains, Tsianina Joelson
Universal 00/US 4 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
Doing for cheerleading what Drop Dead Gorgeous did for beauty pageants, Bring It On is a far-above-average teen comedy that's both wickedly funny and dead-on insightful. With a very clever script, superior performances (including Drop Dead's Dunst) and witty direction, the film is so perky that you can't help but love it.

Torrance (Dunst) has inherited the mantle of head cheerleader at Rancho Carne High in San Diego only to discover that the outgoing captain stole all their championship-winning routines from an innercity high school in Los Angeles. So she has to cope with squabbling in the ranks, the furious L.A. squad captain (Union) and a scary new choreographer (Roberts) ... as the championships approach. But she has a feisty new friend and teammate Missy (Dushku) to help, and Missy has an intriguing brother (Bradford) Torrance is not falling for. Definitely not.

Reed's direction is just a bit too spirited at times, but it's solidly anchored by Bendinger's script, which slices straight through cheerleading culture to draw out both sharp humour and some surprisingly meaningful themes. The film isn't a spoof; it never opts for the cheap laugh when something far more knowing (and funny) can be drawn out of the situations and characters. And the cast is fantastic, held together by Dunst in a natural, kinetic performance that keeps us laughing ... and cheering her on. Yes, this is one of those rare comedies that's both non-stop hilarious and surprisingly telling as it examines high school in a subtle, smart way. And you'll never again be able to write off cheerleaders as airhead bimbos.

[12--themes, innuendo, some language] 11.Oct.00
US release 25.Aug.00; UK release 20.Oct.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall