We gave it a B-
The champion high school cheerleading squad members of Bring It On aren”t pretending to be anyone’s goody two sneakers. This is a movie in which every last girl, even the ”nice” heroine, played by the game and vibrant Kirsten Dunst, has the grabby values and shrill, lacquered sex bomb personality of a villainous ice princess in a John Hughes movie.
These babes barely even go in for pom poms; they’re too hard to play with anything that soft. Adolescent dominatrices in athletic halter tops, they’re buffed and polished trophy vixens who reign over a take no prisoners consumer zone, where their perfect smiles and midriffs are the ultimate consumer prize. To say that they have pep wouldn t do justice to their snooty, proudly fascist empowerment. They’ve got bitch pep. (Introducing your daughters’ new role models.) Arriving at the end of a summer pockmarked by bad teen movies, ”Bring It On” is something at least mildly different; it’s an okay brat movie.
Torrance (Dunst), who’s perky and beautiful but so fine boned that she barely looks resilient enough to be a cheerleader, takes over as team captain for the Toros, the Rancho Carne High School squad in San Diego, who have won the national championship five years in a row. Their routines, like all those madly synchronized cheerleader blitzkriegs you occasionally glimpse on ESPN, are a blast of goofy aerobic fireworks: human pyramids that move like videogames.
Torrance, however, discovers that her squad’s meticulous body tossing choreography has been ripped off from the East Compton Clovers, a black Los Angeles team that couldn’t afford to compete on the national circuit. When the Jennifer Beals character appropriated break dance moves at the end of ”Flashdance,” it was treated as a bold triumph of ”good girl gone street” movement (and racial sensitivity). Now, when all of youth culture has been thoroughly hip-hopped, the idea, I guess, is that even white girls need to find their moves… inside.
In essence, the plot of ”Bring It On” is a demographic ploy — i.e., can the movie pull in young black viewers as well as white? Torrance and her crew may be going for their ”dream,” but the movie, which is clever enough to tweak their shallow obsession with victory, could scarcely care less; it’s really a celebration of their high dis style of one upmanship and heartless sexual bravado. ”This is not a democracy!” declares Torrance. ”It’s a cheerocracy!” Few actresses besides Kirsten Dunst could deliver that line with a straight face and make it seem innocent in its very arrogance. After her lovely ’70s daze in ”The Virgin Suicides,” she gets to show some spunk here — maybe too much — but it’s her mixture of delicacy and vivacity that holds the picture together.
I do wish the movie made flashier use of its pop soundtrack. The closing credits, which blend blooper outtakes with scenes of the actresses lip-synching to B*witched’s remake of Toni Basil’s ”Mickey,” has a bump and grind exhilaration that nothing preceding it can match. That said, ”Bring It On,” a late August throwaway pitched between exploitation and satire, has more life to it than such recent teen duds as ”Boys and Girls,” ”Whatever It Takes,” or the limp, cringe worthy ”Loser.” Those movies, in their way, were sincere; this one is proudly crass. That makes it, at the very least, of the moment.