Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 8/25/00

Looking at the trailer from Bring It On, and from the TV commercials, and from the first few scenes, one can't help assuming it's simply another high school almost-sex flick, following in the tradition of Can't Hardly Wait, American Pie, and She's All That. And it certainly doesn't disappoint in the T&A department, especially in the first reel. But despite its reliance on highschoolspeak and some of its more stereotyped characters, Peyton Reed's cheerleaders-go-to-nationals film actually lends a bit of credibility to its fluffy premise. The script by first-timer Jessica Bendinger is the film's weakest point; Bendinger didn't intend for this to be anything more than those mentioned, but Peyton and his actors, notably Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Bradford, and Eliza Dushku, take it to a level where it actually almost seems to matter.

As incoming senior Torrance Shipman (Dunst) receives the mantle of head cheerleader for the 5-time national champion Rancho Carne High School cheering squad of San Diego, she plans to carry on the winning tradition that has made the "Toros" famous. However, when she discovers that the group's last several years' worth of winning routines were stolen from an all-black squad from East Compton High School, she must find a way to create her own routine in time for this year's championship. This task becomes even more urgent when the East Compton girls make it to nationals for the first time and threaten to take away the Toros' title.

Supporting characters include transfer student Missy Pantone (Dushku), who is really a skilled gymnast but joins the squad because "this school has no gymnastics program," and Missy's brother Cliff (Bradford), with whom Torrance falls in love despite his open derision of the cheerleading life. The rest of the squad is mainly made up of girls whose boobs outweigh their acting ability, and there are also several incidental characters, like the professional choreographer played by Ian Roberts, whose inclusion brings the film back down to its original sophomoric level every time it starts to fly.

Bring It On is frustrating because it seems like the director and writer are working at cross-purposes. Bendinger's trite, eminently predictable script usually wavers between being just pointless and downright stupid, but then once in a while you catch yourself beginning to care. And the scenes toward the end involving the national competition seem to be written by a different author; it's compelling in spite of itself.

The love story is trite and, thanks to the PG-13 rating, sexless. The cheerleaders' predicament story strains greatly to be of importance. And the comedy, including everything from the silly tryout scenes to the leather-clad choreographer acting as a sort of mincing drill sergeant, is geared more toward a goofball spoof than a film with any kind of serious intentions. But the cheering is occasionally spectacular and the principals' acting is above the material. ***½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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