Bring It On [DVD]
Screenplay : Jessica Bendinger
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2000
Stars : Kirsten Dunst (Torrance Shipman), Jesse Bradford (Cliff Pantone), Eliza Dushku (Missy Pantone), Gabrielle Union (Isis), Clare Kramer (Courtney Egbert), Melissa George (Shelly Brooks), Tsianina Joelson (Darcy)
Bring It On is a funny, semi-satirical teen comedy about competing squads of high school cheerleaders. Because the central focus is cheerleading, a uniquely American activity that has had its share of derisive barbs thrown at it over the years, the movie is engaged in a constant balancing act. On the one hand, there is a certain amount of parody aimed at cheerleading as an activity and the kind of people it tends to attract. On the other hand, most of the major characters are cheerleaders, hence the movie cannot be too broad in its comical strokes lest it mock characters that are meant to be sympathetic.
The heroine is a perky senior named Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst). Torrance has been named the new captain of San Diego's Rancho Carne High School cheerleading squad, which has won the national championship the last five years in a row. Torrance's life is unashamedly wrapped around her position as head cheerleader, despite nagging from her mother that she should take more college-prep courses and constant ridicule from her little brother. When another character tries to blow off a cheerleading disaster by saying "It's just cheerleading," Torrance replies in all sincerity, "But I am just cheerleading."
The dilemma Torrance must face is the realization that the Big Red, dictatorial head cheerleader whom she is succeeding (Lindsay Sloane), had stolen Rancho Carne's award-winning cheers and dance moves from a talented group of all-black cheerleaders at East Compton High. Naturally, the East Compton cheerleaders are not particularly pleased that a group of white-bread San Diego cheerleaders have been ripping off their ingenuity and creativity and using it to win championships and get coverage on ESPN. Because the East Compton squad plans to compete in nationals this year, Torrance knows that she has to scrap her squad's entire routine and build something from scratch.
At one point, this involves hiring a professional choreographer who turns out to be a snooty, Bob Fosse-wannabe "artist" named Sparky (Ian Roberts) who derides the cheerleaders while teaching them a bizarre new routine of modern dance moves that have nothing whatsoever to do with cheerleading. The scenes in which Sparky, dressed all in black, stalks the gymnasium like a condescending Broadway director, hurling insults at the teenagers about their skill levels, intelligence, and physique, is one of the movie's funniest scenes.
Bring It On also features an interesting relationship between Torrance and a recently transferred girl named Missy (Eliza Dushku), a rebellious gymnast who joins the cheerleaders because it is the only gymnastics-related outlet available to her. Missy's brother is another rebellious soul named Cliff (Jesse Bradford), who catches Torrance's eye despite the fact that she has an obnoxiously chipper boyfriend (Richard Hillman) who recently left for college. However, the most interesting relationship in the movie is the one most fraught with tension and distrust: the begrudging respect that slowly grows between Torrance and Isis (Gabrielle Union), East Compton's cheerleader captain.
The majority of Bring It On is typically bawdy humor, most of which works quite well. Much of the slang-ridden dialogue between the teen characters is fresh, and it is delivered with energy and humor. The movie also opens on a hilarious high note with a dream sequence in which the cheerleaders do a routine in which they chant the often unspoken truth about their existence within the high school social spectrum (Sample: "I jump! You can look but don't you hump. I'm major. I roar. I swear I'm not a whore. We cheer as we lead. We act like we're on speed. Hate us 'cause we're beautiful--but we don't like you either"). It is a riotous moment of truth-bearing that is done with effectively blunt-edged humor.
In addition to the opening, director Peyton Reed puts together a couple of great sequences, most notably a prolonged scene in which Torrance, who is spending the night at Missy's house, and Cliff find themselves standing next to each other in the bathroom brushing their teeth. There is no dialogue in the scene, but the manner in which they brush their teeth tells us volumes about how they feel about each other. It is a sly, witty scene of innocent foreplay that unspools like silent comedy, and both actors do an outstanding job of conveying hidden emotions in how they wield a toothbrush and spit in a sink. It is a sublimely comical scene.
While it is a straightforward comedy, Bring It On walks a number of fine lines, most notably its plotline involving class and racial tensions between the Rancho Carne and East Compton cheerleaders. The script by Jessica Bendinger deals with this uncomfortable topic fairly well, and manages to integrate it quite seamlessly into a narrative that is otherwise filled with typically crude teenage humor. Bendin's script does a good job of empowering the East Compton cheerleaders and making sure we understand that, just because they come from a lower socioeconomic status, they are not charity cases. Everything they achieve, they achieve on their own merits.
For a teen comedy, Bring It On is surprisingly aware of class issues and doesn't mind putting them up front (class issues are common in teen movies, but usually only in fanciful terms of a rich kid falling in love with a poor kid, which invariably romanticizes the difference). While most characters in teen movies live in luxurious suburban houses and drive nice cars as if that is simply part of the normal adolescent lifestyle, Bring It On foregrounds these issues by making it clear that not all teens live such a life (although all the main characters do). It isn't enough to make Bring It On a truly serious movie, but it does give rise to some thought that most teen movies are unable (or unwilling) to muster.
|Bring It On Collector's Edition DVD|
|Audio|| DTS 5.1 Surround|
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
|Languages||English (DTS 5.1, DD 5.1), French (DD 5.1)|
|Supplements|| Screen-specific audio commentary with director Peyton Reed|
"Spotlight on Location: The Making of Bring It On
10 deleted scenes
3 extended scenes
Behind-the-scenes home movies of the car wash scene
Wardrobe and makeup tests
Did You Know That? Universal's Animated Antecdotes
Blaque "As If" music video
Original theatrical trailer
Cast and crew filmographies
Screen saver and cheer quiz (DVD-ROM)
|The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is crisp and sharp, with excellent detail and great color saturation. Bring It On is a extremely colorful movie--taking place in Southern California, there are tons of green trees and grass in the backgrounds, and the cheerleading competitions are a veritable rainbow of bright uniforms--and this transfer features strong, vivid colors without bleeding. This is especially impressive considering the vast amounts of red in the Rancho Carne cheerleader uniforms. Black levels look good, and flesh tones appear natural throughout. Overall, a very nice presentation.|
|Available in either DTS 5.1 surround or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, the soundtrack for Bring It On is strong, without being too aggressive. I was expecting a soundtrack that was much more in your face, but I found the mix to be more restrained. This does not mean, however, that it doesn't have punch. The pop-and-rock-song-heavy soundtrack is well matched to the high-intensity beats and rhythms of the competitive cheerleading storyline, and both the DTS and Dolby Digital mixes are nicely spaced out with an appropriate amount of thumping bass on the .1 LFE channel. Neither soundtrack is particularly showy in terms of imaging and directionality, but they both work well enough for their intended purpose, which is mainly dialogue and music, rather than sound effects.|
|Released under Universal's "Collector's Edition" banner, Bring It On has been given a full treatment in terms of supplements. |
Director Peyton Reed contributes an amusing and informative screen-specific audio commentary that is just as entertaining as the movie itself. He seems to have a laid-back, easy-going nature, and his commentary is rapid-fire without being overwhelming. There is rarely a pause as he talks about filming locations, his love of big entrances for main characters, various character developments (especially his defense of Missy and her not selling out her punk nature by becoming a cheerleader), and the fact that various scenes in the movie were influenced by everyone from Busby Berkeley to John Hughes.
Also included is "Spotlight on Location: The Making of Bring It On, a typical making-of featurette that's not half-bad. It's not quite as much of a fluff marking piece as many of these "making-of featurettes" usually are. It is still the usual concoction, featuring interview clips with director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jessica Bendinger, as well a half-dozen of the actors involved, including Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, and Gabrielle Union, mixed in alongside some behind-the-scenes footage.
If you're really interested in trivia, you can activate the Did You Know That? Animated Anecdotes, which functions in Pop-Up-Video-style to give you all kinds of random facts throughout the movie. The brief facts appear every 5 to 10 seconds in different colored boxes on various parts of the screen. The facts range from information about the production of the film to the history of cheerleading.
Peyton Reed (who was obviously quite involved in the production of this DVD) is also on hand to introduce and explain 10 deleted scenes (which include an alternate ending) and 3 extended versions of scenes that are already in the movie. Reed is candid about why he cut the scenes (most of them he professes to liking, but as a good director, he understood that they got in the way of the flow of the movie). Most of the deleted scenes are pretty good, although they are presented in nonanamorphic widescreen, and the image quality is pretty shoddy.
The disc is rounded out by the "As If" music video by Blaque, the trio of African American musicians who appear in the film as the East Compton cheerleaders; the original theatrical trailer in nonanamorphic widescreen; about 40 seconds of wardrobe and makeup tests featuring Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Duchku; production notes and cast and crew filmographies; and a few DVD-ROM features such as a screen saver and a cheer quiz.
©2000, 2001 James Kendrick