Movie of the Week 6/2/14: Bring It OnPosted: June 12, 2014
With Peyton Reed having just signed on for Ant-man, Shiran thought she would show me his best-known work in hopes of maybe combating my pessimism about Marvel’s choice to replace the irreplaceable. And post-Bring It On, contrary to popular opinion I actually feel ever-so-slightly more optimistic having seen Reed at work. In this teen movie that I would’ve assumed to be vacuous and bland, I found a filmmaker with some good visual and comedic instincts that need the right circumstances to be explored in full, and someone that might yet get us a decent Ant-man. But as for the movie at hand, Bring It On’s success lies more than anywhere else with its script, which sometimes tries too hard but that gives the whole enterprise a solid and fun direction.
Reed shows just enough visual flair and camera-based comedy to keep me hopeful for his transition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this flair gives Bring It On a solid boost. The opening dream sequence, the vibrancy of the dance performances and a few careful shots (like the reveal of the cheerleader being carted into an ambulance after her fall) show a decent sense of framing, even if he doesn’t fully commit himself to anything too ambitious. But it does give the film some additional liveliness, and helps keep the whole thing engaging beyond just the performers and the script… though even if just left with those, the film would be fine.
Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford all bring their various types of charisma to bear, and the interplay among the three of them is a big plus for the film. Not to mention Gabrielle Union- as the leader of their rival squad- who serves as an antagonist without ever being cartoonishly combative, bringing some exciting righteous indignation to bear. But with all those fun performances, the script is the biggest star, showing some really smart and aware beats that give the characters agency while also embracing and emphasizing the ridiculousness of the situation. I was also surprised by how macho everything is: the dialogue could just as easily come from a bro-y sports movie half the time. This helps sell cheerleading as a serious competition, and gets the audience as invested as the characters in the outcome.
The movie isn’t perfect of course. Torrance’s little brother is both annoying and completely unnecessary, and for every good line of dialogue there’s one that’s trying waayyyyy to hard to invent teen slang. And while the main actors are solid in their roles, some of the supporting players are a little too over-the-top (though some of that could be traced back to the less-successful dialogue). But overall, Bring It On was a fun movie that wasn’t afraid to commit to the world it explores while also having fun with the perceptions of it, which isn’t as easy a balancing act to accomplish as some people might expect.
As for Shiran’s reaction to her old childhood favorite:
I hate to start off with a correction, but Brendan referring to Bring It On as a childhood favorite is a bit disingenuous. That title really belongs to Legally Blonde, but Brendan cruelly went off and watched that one without me, so we’re settling a bit for Bring It On. I do think Legally Blonde is a better film, but I tend to group these two movies together because they’re both ‘chick-flicks’ that are extremely positive and lovely and very unfairly dismissed. A lot of people probably groan when they hear the concept of a movie about high school cheerleaders competing against each other, assuming it’s a shit-fest full of cliched cat fights. That’s not even remotely the case in Bring It On, and I love that. Despite the over-the-top dialogue the script is much smarter than it probably needed to be. I’m sure the executives in charge just wanted a fun sports movie about hot cheerleaders. They got that, sure, but they also got a movie that touches on problems of privilege and cultural appropriation. Probably my favorite aspect of the movie, though, is the respect it extends both to the characters and their chosen sport. I’m a highly competitive person in a lot of ways, and my heart flutters a bit when a furious Torrance explains to her team that their main competitors have to get the money to make it into their final competition, because the only way to be the best is to compete amongst true equals. When has a head cheerleader obsessed with competition even been portrayed as healthy and positive? Pretty much never, and I’m happy Bring It On changes that.
I’ll be bringing a ‘90s classic with me next time, one that also has ties to superhero blockbusters, so feel free to speculate wildly until this weekend!