Bring It On: In It to Win It
Every year or two Universal comes up with another installment of their popular franchise, ‘Bring It On’. Many out there may roll their eyes and sigh, ‘not another cheerleader flick’. There is some truth to this but it is a fairly myopic look at these movies. When you look at the casts some of the most successful actresses have gone through these films. In the first flick released in 2002 the star was Kirsten Dunst, who is now well sought after for her movie roles. The third movie had a little know actress, Hayden Panettiere. Not only did she continue this type of character on television she became the all important indestructible cheerleader in the NBC hit series ‘Heroes’. The phrase ‘Save the Cheerlead, save the World’ was everywhere. So you never know if the next A-List actress just might pop out of one of these flicks. There is also another fact to face. As long as there are hormonally charged teenaged boys with a little disposable income a film that centers on very pretty young girls in extremely short skirts flying into the air will have some interest and sales. Although I am far removed from this demographic I always assure my wife that I only watch these films because I have to. Other men of this age find your own excuse.
Since the film series is now in its seventh year and forth installment you have to expect a little downward slide. This is seen in any long running franchise; just look at the world of action and horror films. The plot has suffered over the years. By know most of the possible plights you can inflict on a teenaged girl and still keep a family friendly rating have been done. To make up for this the cheers and dance routines constantly have to be ramped up. In this film it looks as if the production staff has found a way to negate gravity. You just have to remember that this film is targeted to young people and has to appeal to that audience. That would include loud pumping music, colorful costumes and a lot of dancing. Plots are only required as a gossamer scaffold to bide time between routines. The list of characters changes with every film in this series; it is a franchise in name only. By now this is a brand name but there are a few requirements for what passes as a story. There has to be a queen bee, a girl who is popular and talented in cheering. Next you need a conflict, usually in the form of a rival squad. The differences can be selected from a list including race, economic status or geographic location. Now you need a cute boy; not that he does much it is just part of the requirements. As mention the guys will watch this for the cheerleaders. For the girls you need a theme of female empowerment and a good cat fight or two.
The film opens at the All Star Cheer Camp Championship. We get right into the aforementioned rivalry as two squads face off. On the red side are the Sharks, a west coast based team lead by Carson (Ashley Benson). On the other side of the stage dressed in blue is the East Coast team, the Jets captained by Brooke (Cassie Scerbo). The two squads chant ‘East Coast’ or ‘West Coast’ as the distance between them decreases leaving the two captains literally in each other’s faces. Somehow this played out better in ‘West Side Story’ but at least no one broke on with the song ‘When You’re a Jet’. At this point in order to determine which the protagonists are and which the antagonist I referred to the DVD box cover. Since the girl with the red uniform sporting a ‘S’ was smiling and the girl in blue had a scowl I figure the Sharks will be the good guys. With so many blondes running around shouting it was difficult to tell. The two squads have a cheer-off where they call each other names like slut and skank while flinging in the air and over the floor. It this point I almost expected Officer Krupke and Glad Hand to make an appearance. It turns out this is only a nightmare for Carson but it did set the stage for the characters. The training and events are to be covered by ‘Cheer-TV’ and the location at the Hard Rock Hotel owned by Universal. The report breaks it down for the audience. The Jets have won for the last three years with their traditional style. The Sharks are known more for a more free form, dance style moves. At stake is a world tour for the winners. I suppose the second place squad gets some steak knives. The rivalry is just part of the on going controversy in the cheering world as to what makes a cheer, precision or flavor. Adding a little extra to the mix is both the Jets and the Sharks are part of the same training group, Camp Sprit Thunder. There is a rival group, Camp Victory who has a history of bad blood with the Spirit Thunders. Carson meets a boy who happens to be from the Jets, Penn (Michael Copon) and they begin to secretly see each other. The night of their date Carson was supposed to guard the squad’s luck charm the Spirit Stick which over course is stolen. The two Camp Spirit Thunder Squads eventually have to work together to win.
By now you should have caught on to the West Side Story homage that pervades the flick. It even goes so far that in the final number they start by banging on trash can lids and with chain link fences. The film is fun for the teens and has nothing that a parent has to worry about. It has a positive message that rivalries can get in the way of your goals and you have to learn to work together. The romance in this installment is a bit more pertinent to the plot than in the previous films. Of course for a romantic thread you can’t go wrong with star crossed lovers, it is classic. Universal went a little overboard with the internal product placement. Having the contest held at the fabulous Universal Hard Rock Café in Orlando did let show off the facility. The thing is it looked great, I would love to go. Between rehearsing the kids took in the rides and restaurants touring the theme park. In the end one ride inspired the teamwork that would win the day.
The cheer numbers are excellent and after all that is why the kids watch a film like this. They are imaginative and because of the structure of the story the choreographers have a chance to show off all the different cheering styles. Some are, as mentioned, traditional cheers, some dance moves and then there are they ones that would make an Olympic gymnast jealous. This flick requires a cast that is able to at least give the impression of doing the moves. It does seem that most of them are well trained in cheering. Ashley Benson is well cast as Carson. She has a strong and varied background in dance and it shows here. She can also deliver a line and act better than a lot of her peers here. Opposite her is Cassie Scerbo again a perfect choice. She is extremely athletic and according to her resume well trained in gymnastics, boxing and cheerleading. The two play ‘frienimies’ extremely well. Also in the film is Jennifer Tisdale as the best friend of Brooke. She is the older sister of the Disney darling, Ashley Tisdale. Jennifer has a strong list of roles to her credit including a main character in the ‘Hillside Strangler’. Her kid sister adds a little more ‘tween appeal with a song featured during the closing credits.
Universal does give a lot more than an extended commercial for their Florida based theme resort. The DVD release is well done as you would expect from Universal. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video is brilliant with colors that pop. The audio is a pounding Dolby 5.1. The sound track will even give the sub woofer are real workout. There are plenty of extras to keep the kids busy after the watch the flick. Of course there are the required deleted scenes to start things off. Then we have ‘Light’s Camera Bring It’ which focuses on the use of different styles of cheering used. The next two featurettes take a closer look at style. The first is East Coast Proper followed by West Coast Flair. The pivotal sheer off is shown with featurette on filming the ‘rumble’. Last there are a couple of how to featurettes with Tony G, actually the choreographer Tony Gonzalez. This is a fun romp for ‘tween and younger teens and worth the watch.