You wouldn’t think a movie about cheerleaders and a rivalry between teams would be any good, but “Bring It On” manages to be lightning in a bottle that has yet to be topped by its terrible sequels. Not that cheerleading isn’t interesting, but “Bring It On” is such an entertaining and funny sports film, it sets the standard for movies about cheerleaders that has yet to be equaled or rivaled in quality. Director Peyton Reed’s film is a mix of comedy, drama, and light commentary on race and class warfare.
A very attractive Kirsten Dunst (once the heart throb of many teen boys in 2000) stars as Torrance, a talented cheerleader who inherits her cheerleading squad The Toros from the dictatorial head cheerleader “Big Red.” Seeking to change the way the cheerleaders perform, while garnering their respect, she recruits new cheerleader Missy,a rebellious ex-gymnast who begrudgingly joins the squad. If that’s not making Torrance’s life difficult enough, Missy informs Torrance, much to her dismay, that the routine the Toros have performed for years is stolen from an inner city East Compton squad The Clovers. Torrance is shocked to learn that Missy isn’t only correct, but that the rival head cheerleader Isis is very aware of the theft.
She wants to show Torrance and her group that they deserve the recognition for their routine, and intend on taking them to nationals to finally earn the credit. “Bring It On” straddles being controversial, in spite of being mainly a bubbly sports film about rival cheerleaders. There’s no real villain in the film, despite the occasional heel and obnoxious character fighting for dominance on the team, or making Torrance’s life difficult. The cheerleaders on the Clovers are in every right to be infuriated by the artistic theft, while Torrance and her group is kept empathetic and likable, placing them in a spot where they have to start from square one thanks to the inherent plagiarism, and figure out how to carve their own niche as a squad. The subtext of race and class become ever more volatile, as director Reed subtly explores the idea of the privileged mostly upper class school stealing and plagiarizing from the lower class inner city for so many years with barely a peep heard from either community.
What adds to the undertones of racism is that former head cheerleader “Big Red” isn’t apologetic and feels entitled to their creativity. That changes as Isis, played well by Gabrielle Union fights to keep her squad dignified, even turning down Torrance’s efforts to fund their trip to the national competition. While “Bring It On” does pull off the dual storylines, more emphasis on Isis and her team would really have turned “Bring It On” in to a more complex sports comedy. That said, “Bring It On” hasn’t aged at all, garnering great performances from Dunst, Union, and Eliza Dushku, while bringing legitimately great dance and stunt choreography to the table. Much like “Mean Girls,” Peyton Reed sneaks in very subversive themes in to what is a well written and fun sports comedy.