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Lindy Keffer

Movie Review

Wealthy, suburban Rancho Carne High School has a football team that can’t win a game to save its life. On the other hand, its cheerleading squad has captured the national title five years running. But the football team’s bad luck looms on the horizon for the Toro squad. The team captain graduates and has to hand the reins over to senior Torrance Shipman. It’s up to her to lead the squad to a record-setting sixth championship. Soon however, blonde, bubbly Torrance begins to feel cursed: A squad member breaks her leg and has to be replaced. Sweet-talking boyfriend Aaron turns out to be unsupportive and unfaithful. Worst of all, she discovers that all of the routines handed down to her from the outgoing captain have been stolen from rival squad East Compton High Clovers. So she and her Toros are forced to assemble brand new routines before nationals. While all of that is going on at Rancho Carne, the Clovers are raking together the funds to make the trip to Daytona, Fla. for the competition. The Clovers have never competed on a national level, but new captain Isis is determined to change that.

positive elements: Missy is a breath of fresh air and the voice of reason to the Toro squad. She challenges her teammates to stop using the “borrowed” routines. (“It’s awful. It’s depraved. … We’re talking about cheating here!”) At first, the Toros refuse to dump the stolen material from their program, giving into pressure from selfish Whitney and Courtney. When they do decide to come up with an original routine, it’s not from a desire to do the right thing, but because they know they can’t get away with keeping the heisted moves. (It is implied that if they thought they could get away with it, they’d try.) Still, this moral lapse is somewhat mitigated by the fact that they’re genuinely glad they did the right thing in the end. Torrance is particularly glad to have accepted Missy’s counsel and gives hearty affirmation to the fact that doing the right thing really feels good.

Missy and Cliff have a strong, supportive brother/sister relationship. They challenge each other to make changes in areas of weakness. Hard work and healthy competition is lauded, and the Clovers’ success which rises out of humble circumstances is a heartening story. As captains, Isis and Torrance inspire their teams to greatness and even end up respecting and encouraging each other.

spiritual content: One of the finalist squads at nationals is from a parochial school and prays before every competition.

sexual content: At least the main characters manage to stay out of bed during the film. (Only the unfaithful boyfriend Aaron is caught briefly, though not graphically, in bed with “the other woman.”) But that is about as positive as it gets. The sexualized nature of cheerleading is underscored throughout. Uniforms are short and tight. A dozen women are shown in their bras and panties. Torrance has a nightmare in which she’s topless in front of the student body.

The stereotype of cheerleaders as sex objects is barely challenged; more often, it’s accepted as a “hazard of the job.” At times, the girls even seem to flaunt it. For instance, much is made of the fact that a fund-raising car wash is successful not because of the good service, but because of what the washers are wearing—or not wearing. And if the girls have a hard time being taken seriously as athletes, the male cheerleaders don’t stand a chance. The only options presented are for guy cheerleaders to be homosexual or womanizing, and both of these alternatives are explored through fairly explicit dialogue.

A few crude sexual remarks and one completely over-the-top audition scene are also included to tantalize male audience members distributors hope will suffer through this film with their dates. (Universal even created a sexy trailer that shows a series of such scenes solely to entice this demographic.)

Cliff writes a song to express his feelings for Torrance. Though sweet, it includes a proposition for sex, and while nothing is shown or implied on screen, the audience has no reason to believe she won’t eventually take him up on it.

violent content: Minor. Whitney gets into a “cat fight” with a cheer mascot who’s maybe 10 years old.

crude or profane language: Plenty. Over 50 instances of a–, b–ch, s— and other profanities, along with vulgar hand gestures. One muffled f-word. Especially disappointing is the deliberate effort on the part of the producers to include profanity outside the story line. Outtakes at the end of the film include a bleeped f-word. The s-word is apparently what they want audiences to remember, as it’s the final spoken word before the credits roll.

drug and alcohol content: None.

conclusion: Bring It On can’t decide whether to take itself seriously or not. In some ways, stereotypes are sickeningly played-up. The “tender” moments are a bit forced. On the other hand, athleticism rules when the squads are on the floor—to the extent that the audience catches a bit of the adrenaline rush. The competition scenes are fairly realistic, capturing fanatical cheerleading from several angles. But far from successfully promoting cheerleading as a serious sport, this movie goes overboard in its portrayals of off-the-mat sexual games among athletes. Chalk up a few more points (to the opposing team) for profanity and you’ve got a film that’s not worth cheering for.

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Lindy Keffer