All right, this is the end of “Sports Month” here at the JOE-DOWN. And for the fourth and final installment of this theme, I picked “Bring It On.”
The Movie: “Bring It On” (2000)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford
Director: Peyton Reed
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A champion high school cheerleading squad discovers its previous captain stole all their best routines from an inner-city school and must scramble to compete at this year’s championships..
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63 percent
Froemming: Alright, here we are at the conclusion of “Sports Month” here at the JOE-DOWN. And to cap off this theme, I picked a film that Netflix assured me was a sports movie with “Bring It On.” A film that is perhaps the most 1990s thing I’ve ever seen on film. It is a movie about friendship, about teenagers….about the murky world of cheerleading. So Brown, what are your initial thoughts on this Kirsten Dunst vehicle?
Brown: I wish this vehicle had flat tires before it ever went on the road.
This may be the second-most 90s movie to exist (behind “Can’t Hardly Wait,” a movie we will have to do someday on the JOE-DOWN). What this movie does have is some of the most unlikable people ever to be printed on celluloid. Right from the opening song (because, yes, we needed that) all the way to the very sportsmanship-like ending, this was grueling.
To give you an idea of that, my first note: We’re 20 seconds in and I already hate this.
Froemming: Your pain watching this only gave me pleasure. This, my friend, was my revenge for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”
So we kick off this movie with a very strange dream sequence, where Torrance Shipman (played by Dunst. Her character’s name is on par with Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo from “The Simpsons” in ridiculousness) is dreaming about a bizarre cheerleading scenario that also allows us, the viewers, to get to know of the characters. It ends with her clothes falling off, because it’s not a teen movie without some good old-fashioned nudity.
Brown: The opening song talks about how terrible the people are in this cheerleading clique. I knew right away it was a dream sequence because no cheerleading routine would actually involve singing, but I did write down: I hope there’s a flood at their school and the gym is destroyed.
And speaking of Torrance’s name, every time I heard it, I thought of Jack Torrance from “The Shining.” Do you think all cheering and no play makes Torrance a dull gal?
We then get greeted to Torrance’s boyfriend, Aaron, who drives like a madman in what looks like a Rav-4. And he says he doesn’t want to “Mack” on Torrance in front of her parents. A word like “Mack” is Hollywood code for “We don’t know how teenagers talk.”
Froemming: OK, I wrote this down in my notes because it is true: When Aaron pulls up to the house as the parents were packing their car, it looked like a shot-for-shot clone of the beginning of “Mallrats” when TS pulls up to his girlfriend’s house and finds out they are not going on vacation anymore.
And Aaron dating Torrance is creepy. College guys should not be dating high school girls.
Brown: You could tell their love was meant to last…
So we go to Torrance’s cheer-tastic high school, Rancho Carne HS. Translated from Spanish: Meat Ranch High School. Because this movie decided to give its school a name straight from a Tex-Mex menu, the high school will now be referred to as Meat Ranch.
Froemming: Like Ron Swanson, you had me at “meat ranch.”
So we come to learn that a torch is being passed from the former team captain Big Red to someone new. And what do you know, Torrance gets the position. And it is tough going at first, especially when Carver breaks her leg during a routine (which I chuckled at, I am a monster sometimes).
So they need to hold tryouts for a replacement. At this point, the film had hit just about every cliche and trope of a teen movie. It was mind boggling. Oh, and there was so much 90s pop punk in this film that by this scene I swear I was suffering from a sugar high.
Brown: I imagine this was the first time you had heard Sum 41 since Carson Daly was an actual celebrity.
One of the big tropes we see is the introduction to the new boy in school, Cliff (Bradford). You know he’s a rebel because he wears Chuck Taylors and a Clash shirt. Torrance goes on to ask who The Clash is, and for the next 10 minutes, I saw a white hot flash of rage. This wasn’t helped by the girls in the school talking like Valley girls. This high school is in San Diego. You’re a little south of the Valley, folks.
Froemming: Not only is Cliff a rebel, but we know his sister is a rebel too, because she has dreads, a chain wallet and a fake tattoo. We are introduced to Missy (Dushku) during the tryouts, and her character was so weird. She looked like a lost member of Korn, and her character was really into gymnastics — so she decided to go into cheerleading(?). There was no real sense as to what this character was about.
Brown: OK, so this movie came out the same year as last week’s JOE-DOWN pick, “The Replacements.” And I swear the cheerleader tryouts felt like a shot-for-shot rip-off from that movie. Or, maybe “The Replacements” ripped off “Bring It On.” I don’t have the energy to check which is which.
I think Missy is supposed to be the moral compass of the cheerleaders because she’s the one who will point out their BS and in a little bit, she’ll point out the major drama of the movie. A pair of the girls don’t want her on the squad, but as we’ve come to learn from Torrance, this is a cheer-oracy, not a democracy.
After that line was uttered, I had to pause the movie and take a 10-minute walk. These people are so vapid. I cannot stand any of them.
Froemming: Well, they need a full team because regionals are coming up, and every time I heard the world “regionals” I pictured this:
Oh man, at this point in the movie I was really kicking myself for this pick. If my eyes could have bled from suffering, they would have here.
But Missy decides to give cheerleading a shot after Torrance begs her to come back (after being mocked by the other girls), which was odd because she did go to the tryouts in the first place. Whatever.
But Missy is not impressed with the cheers. See, it turns out that Meat Ranch High has been stealing moves from East Compton for years (Missy has seen the East Compton team in action). Only Meat Ranch High never knew this. So Missy has to prove it to Torrance by bringing her to Compton and showing her that her cheerleading life is a lie.
Brown: Well, Torrance never knew about the plagiarism. And when she tells the team what was going on, they don’t care.
When they go to East Compton (because if you’re making a movie in Hollywood, the only place black characters are from is either Compton or Harlem), there is no way that confrontation goes down without someone throwing a punch.
While she sleeps over at Missy’s house, Torrance reveals she is bad luck because at cheerleading camp, she dropped the Spirit Stick on purpose. And I have to go with Missy on this one: This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Baseball teams aren’t as superstitious as that.
Froemming: Yup, they decided to throw some WTF mysticism into the mix at this point with the Spirit Stick. But hey, we see that Cliff is really punk rock because not only is his wardrobe from Hot Topic, so are the posters adorning the walls of his room. And he plays guitar like a spastic child on a sugar rush. But, you see this film really hammers home that opposites do attract, because there is a connection between the cheerleader and the moody teen.
Brown: OK, we cannot move on until we discuss the toothbrush scene, because this was one of the most infuriating parts of this entire movie.
Why does this exist? I just rewatched it and I’m as bewildered as I was when I first watched this. I honestly think this scene exists to kill time, like in “The Simpsons” where Sideshow Bob steps on rakes for a full 30 seconds because they needed to chew some clock.
Froemming: Why hasn’t someone looped that into a two-hour Youtube clip? And frankly, watching people brush their teeth is one of the least appealing things I can imagine. Frankly, it’s disgusting.
Brown: So, the routine stealing is brought up to the team and it gets put to a vote. And the group decides to go with the routine that Big Red set up for them. So Torrance and Missy are just going along with this… way to stick up for your convictions, you scum.
That is, until the football game, where the Meat Ranch cheer squad is (rightfully) confronted by the East Compton Clovers.
Froemming: I know it’s not the movie, but I kept thinking of that episode of “South Park” when the kids get served by another dance team as I watched this.
This leads to the only redeeming moment in this film: The team hires a choreographer to teach them new moves.
I say it is redeemable because the choreographer is played by Ian Roberts from the Upright Citizens Brigade (which still had a TV show around the time this came out, a show I love). And he plays the character just like one of his crazy ones from UCB, and I chuckled hard because of it. Everything that comes before and after this in the movie is useless, but this scene is great.
Brown: And it’s a good thing they learned this new routine because it’s time for regionals. And Meat Ranch has a national title to defend!
Before Meat Ranch performs, East Compton blows everyone away with their high energy performance. I don’t know how cheerleading is scored, but they are clearly the best team.
Then, when Meat Ranch is on deck, the team performing does the exact same routine that the choreographer gave them. They have no choice, they NEED to do the exact same routine. And you think, “Yes, these cheaters will finally get their comeuppance.”
But no, we find out that because they won nationals the previous year, they get grandfathered into nationals. And in my notes: WHAT KIND OF WITCHDOCTERY (redacted) IS THAT? As a movie watcher, this is just a terrible way to add drama to the climax. As a sports fan, this is beyond absurd. Why even bother performing at nationals when you get in regardless of place?!
If you can’t tell folks, I hated this movie.
Froemming: Meat Ranch High has the advantage of being rich and upper class. There is no way they were not getting in. End my political rant there.
So, now Meat Ranch has to up its game, so we get a good old montage to pass the time.
Brown: Not only that, but we had Torrance kissing her Ken doll boyfriend Aaron while Cliff looks on. Before his heartbreak sets in, he gave Torrance a tape to listen to, which she does after Aaron tells her she should step down as cheer captain after the snafu at Regionals.
And when Torrance listens to the tape, we get the tried-and-true 90s dance around the room trope.
My notes after this scene: I legitimately hate everyone in this movie.
Froemming: Well, Aaron is a piece of human waste because he cheats on Torrance (this is a disturbing relationship). And yes, Cliff goes back to being a sulky mall punk, because he has had his heart broken by a girl he wasn’t dating, nor even close to having gone on a date with.
But the real mystery is Missy somehow gets rid of her dreads without having to cut her hair or anything. One day those moldy bricks of clumpy hair is there, the next day they are gone. Call Robert Stack, I think we have an Unsolved Mystery!
Brown: Every time I saw Cliff on screen, I thought of the poser rant from Matthew Lillard’s character in “SLC Punk” (NSFW).
Refusing to step down as captain, Torrance challenges her team to come up with a completely original routine in three weeks before nationals. She also challenges East Compton to get to nationals. Turns out, they can’t afford to go, so Torrance convinces her dad to raise money for the Clovers. Because of their pride, the Clovers won’t take the money. They will take it from pawn shop Oprah, though.
So on the national stage, it’s Meat Ranch and East Compton. It’s time to Bring. It. On!
Froemming: Yup, everyone heads down to that dumpster fire of a town, Daytona, Fla. for the nationals. And not only that, ESPN is covering this event. Since I am not a sports guy, Brown, are these things actually televised?
Brown: They are! Usually you associate ESPN with “Sports Center” or some of their top-notch documentaries. Then (especially in the 90s and early 2000s) you had your weird things on ESPN2 like “World’s Strongest Man,” “X-Games” and yes, cheerleading.
So as soon as they performed, were you like me and thought, “Yeah, no one is beating East Compton”?
Froemming: I had no doubt East Compton would win. And here is where I have the biggest issue with this movie: It would have been much more interesting to see the story of the East Compton team than Meat High. But hey, RCH (the lettering on their uniforms is literally one word away from spelling “rich”) put in a good effort to take second place.
Brown: After Torrance and Cliff kiss (because of course), Torrance says that second place “feels like first.” I shut the movie off here. I was done. There could have been 10 more minutes, but no, I was done.
Froemming: So you missed the cover of “Hey Mickey” as the gag reel played over the credits? That’s a shame.
Brown: I get this feeling I didn’t miss anything. I am OK with this.
Froemming: Let’s take our spirit fingers over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND
Froemming: Nope. We really shouldn’t have reviewed this movie. It was more of a spite thing from me after Brown made me sit through a film about magic pants. It isn’t the worst film I have seen, but it is far from good.
Brown: No. Just… just, no.