Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bring It On - Tenth Anniversary

It's the tenth anniversary of Bring It On, which I saw for the first time on August 26, 2000. Opinions will vary but Bring It On has to be considered by most to be one of the great feel-good movies of all time. I decided to watch it again on this, its tenth anniversary.

The plot is simple. A high school cheerleading squad with a history of winning national tournaments hits a few difficult patches and agitates a rival team, whom they meet in the finals.

It's been a few years, maybe five or six since I last watched it all the way through. With fresh eyes, the memory of seeing it many times, having watched the bonus features and listened to the director's commentary, I noticed something right away: Bring It On has no business being as good as it is. The story is clearly a basic teen formula and the dialog is peppered with lingo that was  dated even ten years ago.  Yet...

Judging by the deleted scenes and director's commentary, the movie was intended to be both more of a drama and more vulgar.  Up & coming starlet Kirsten Dunst wasn't known for comedy and probably wouldn't have been anyone's first choice for Bring It On as a finished product. Bring It On, then, must have been saved in the editng booth. It's a trim 1:34, including credits, usually a sign that lots of stuff was cut.

No matter. Why is Bring It On such a great movie?

It's fun, plain and simple. I dare you to watch and not smile all the way through. From the simple touches, like the high school's name, Rancho Carne, and the lead's obliviousness to her obviously gay (and overcompensating) boyfriend, to the toothbrushing scene, where Dunst and the new love interest flirt and advance their relationship - wordlessly - in a way I've never seen before or since (genius!). Any serious romantic comedy should be so lucky as to have a scene like that (I'm talking to you, Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and Amy Adams).

Then there's the cheerleading routines. There is something primal about music and movement that draws a person in. The most serious and cynical person can get drawn in by musicals.  It's probably genetic, as our ancestors would have have had nothing else for entertainment but singing and dancing around campfires for millenia until the modern age. Even now, musicals do well in plays, movies and TV (Glee, anyone?). Bring It On gives us dance set to 11.

We don't even see a real cheer routine until 54 minutes in but once they start, the movie kicks into high gear. The plot points get advanced quickly and get out of the way of the routines. Although I don't believe the movie has a moral or a message, it's very uplifting the way the competition ends, fences are mended and the final scene devolves into a very effective crane shot of all the teams celebrating.

Then, there's the credits. If you don't feel good at the end of the story, the credits add a fun music video featuring outtakes and a little vamping for the camera. Like I said, a great feel-good movie even if it should have been nothing more than a B movie.

The cast featured a core of talented young actors that have been working solidly since. Superstar Kirsten Dunst, of course, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union and Faith/Echo herself, the wonderful Eliza Dushku. Oddly, I didn't discover Buffy the Vampire Slayer until after its network run, so Bring It On was my first real exposure to Eliza. She's always been Missy Pant One for a fraction of a second whenever I've see her in Buffy, Dollhouse or wherever. The supporting cast is less well known, including Nicole Bilderback, Nathan West, Huntley Ritter and Bianca Kajlich, all people you'd recognize even if you don't recognize their names. Lindsay Sloane chewed the scenery as the outgoing captain. Her career started with Sabrina the Teenage Witch and was most recently in She's Out of His League. Rini Bell had a recurring role on Gilmore Girls (Real first name: Honorine.  How cool is that?). A year after Bring It On, Clare Kramer would find cult TV immortality as the ubervillain Glory on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Minions!!!

Other things of note. There are almost no adults in the movie. A little guidance from teachers, parents or a cheer coach would have saved the kids from a lot of bad decisions but that would have killed the movie. During one viewing, years ago, I started imaging that the writer drew inspiration from Charlie Brown (wah wah wah).

If you know me, this next part will come as no surprise. I time every movie I see from the first studio logo until the end of the entertaining part of the move (usually when the credits roll). My watch easily toggles from clock to stopwatch and when I stop the stopwatch, out of habit, I flip the watch back to being a clock. At the end of Bring It On, on August 26, 2000, I clicked the stopwatch at the end of the music video/outtake part. 1:34:01. I flipped to the clock. The time was 1:34:01. I had to watch the seconds change to understand what I was seeing. The movie had to have started at exactly 12:00:00. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. And would you believe it happened again this month? When I watched The Kids Are All Right on the 10th, the 11:55 start time was pushed by previews to noon, so at 1:42, when the movie ended, the stopwatch read 1:42, although the seconds didn't match. Still.

If you haven't seen Bring It On, go rent it. If you've seen it, you know it's worth seeing again. Don't wait until the 20th anniversary.

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