The girls on the five-time national champion Rancho Carne High cheerleading squad have sharp tongues to complement their nubile figures. Thus, they chirp such put-downs as, "She puts the 'ass' in massive" and "She puts the 'lude' in deluded" as easily as they perform back handsprings. Did the cheerleaders at your high school possess such caustic wit? Neither did ours. Somehow Bring It On, which stars Kirsten Dunst as earnest cheer captain Torrance Ship-man, was the nation's top-grossing film in its first weekend in release, earning $17.4 million. Why? Two clues. Gimme a T! Gimme an A! What does that spell? (A PG-13 rating, insuring the patronage of the junior high set, helped.)
Like a poorly done sideline routine, Bring It On seems unfocused and unsure of it-self. Is it a satire, like Clueless? The campy opening number ("We cheer as we lead/We act like we're on speed"), which is the film's zenith, would suggest that approach. Is it a racial struggle, like West Side Story? Seems the upper-middle-class Rancho Carne unit has built its dynasty by stealing the routines of an inner-city high school squad. (Hey, copying black artists worked for the Rolling Stones.) Or is it a celebration of a niche sport that builds to a climactic championship scene, like The Karate Kid? Who knows? We do know that Bring It On puts the pomposity in pom-poms. Or, as one neophyte to the "sport" exclaims incredulously, "Wait! People cheering cheerleaders!?"
On a scale of two bits-four bits-six bits-a dollar, we give Bring It On four bits.