Sun, 22 Oct 2000

'Bring It On' brings audiences something to cheer about

By Joko E.H. Anwar

Beacon Pictures and Universal Studios present Bring It On Drama/Comedy: 1 hour 35 min Starring Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union Directed by Peyton Reed

JAKARTA (JP): Bring It On is a fresh, funny and spirited movie which takes on the often underrated world of cheerleading and makes it one of the most entertaining films of the year.

There are not many people who realize that cheerleading requires strength, skill and dedication to excel, just like any other sport.

Despite the hard work cheerleaders have to go through to perform their routines during sports events, cheerleading remain side shows.

The public have also stereotyped cheerleaders: the girls are not very brainy and have nothing else to do besides strutting their stuffs. And the boys are gays.

The opening dream sequence of the film shows the San Diego Toros cheerleading team doing their routine in which cheerleader Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) raises her arms and finds herself topless after her costume suddenly falls to the ground, and the audience mock her.

Torrance's humiliation somewhat shows the common misconception of these "athletes".

However, a recent research in the U.S. shows that 80 percent of cheerleaders have an average of B+ on their academic reports and the film clearly tries to show that male cheerleaders are not necessarily homosexuals.

In the film Torrance has just been elected captain of the San Diego Toros, a five-time champion of the national cheerleading competition.

The new captain is especially nervous after an accident during practice requires her to find a replacement for one of her girls.

After trying out a group of let-downers, Torrance recruits a new girl, Missy Pantone (Eliza Dushku) who has just been transferred to the school.

Missy who is not really a cheerleader type of girl decides to join the team since the school does not have a gymnastic team.

Missy later finds out that the team's best routine which had already earned them top place in the national cheerleading competition was actually taken from another team, East Compton High's Clover.

The Clovers, where most of the cheerleaders are blacks, is a very good team but never had enough funds to enter the competition.

Torrance, after being told by Missy about the shameful fact, could have ignored it and continued to use the routine but instead decides to uphold the ethic on originality.

She decides that the team should have a new routine despite the short time left to the next national competition and opposition from two less than nice team members.

On her college boyfriend's recommendation, Torrance hires an eccentric cheerleading coach Starky Polarsky (Ian Roberts) but the results are disastrous.

Meanwhile, the Clovers decide not to stay home this year and raise funds to join the national competition.

Bring It On reveals that great cheerleading requires hard training with a combination of dance, gymnastic and even martial arts skills.

The cheerleading numbers are the highlights in the film which feature the best cheerleaders in America, adding authenticity to the astonishing cheerleading stunts, including the incredible high-flying numbers.

Cheerleaders have become the focus in several movies, including in the most recent But I'm a Cheerleader.

One notable film about the pom-pom girls is the satirical TV movie titled The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom which stars Holly Hunter.

The film, which is based on a true story in Texas, portrays mothers of cheerleaders as obsessed with having their daughters become the centers of attention. Hunter plays a mother who was willing to hire a hitman to kill the mother of her daughter's cheerleading rival.

Unlike previous films, which make cheerleading a subject of mockery, Jessica Bendinger's script clearly defends the cheerleaders.

"It's only cheerleading, Torrance," Missy said after seeing her friend being a bit too serious about an upcoming competition.

"I am only cheerleading," Torrance said.

However, the film never takes itself too seriously.

"I'm sexy. I'm cute. I'm popular to boot. I'm bitchin'. Great hair. The boys all like to stare," the girls daringly say in the opening scene. And so does the movie.

The film's attitude and sharp dialogue will remind audiences of the teen drama/comedy Clueless.

Unlike recent teen drama/comedies, Bring It On does not rely on gross jokes or acts to generate laughter. The film is surprisingly "clean".

Yes, there is one vomiting scene in the film and Torrance's little brother seems to fit a character in South Park (the feature-length film based on the animated series that was not passed by the censorship board here for being too offensive).

The film also humorously deals with sexual issues.

Male cheerleaders face mockery daily from their peers for being branded as gays.

However, the film does not deny that like in any other field, gays can be found. A scene where a gay cheerleader holds his breath after speaking with another male cheerleader is hilarious.

Meanwhile, Torrance tries to build a relationship with Missy's punkish older brother Cliff played by the talented Jesse Bradford.

In short, this film will amuse youngsters and adults alike.

This is a good-intentioned movie blessed with clear direction, great writing and young fresh talents that will keep you chuckling, clapping, cheering and hoping the film will not come to an end.