Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: The Dark Knight takes on the Man Of Steel. Before picking sides in that title fight, check out these films about showdowns.
Peyton Reed’s directorial debut Bring It On focuses on the rivalry between two cheerleading squads: San Diego’s Rancho Carne Toros and the East Compton Clovers. The Toros, lead by Kirsten Dunst, get the vast majority of the screen time. But if you look at the original trailer, it’s obvious that, just like in the movie, the Clovers get the shaft. Deleted scenes include more training sessions with the Clovers squad, and a love interest for captain Isis (Gabrielle Union), who is never seen in the final version.
Which is too bad, because Bring It On is a fun and better-than-it-first-appears teen sports movie, one that would have done well to dig a little deeper. Perhaps the absurd subplot of the cheer camp “spirit stick” curse could have been tossed in favor of more Clover time. As it is, the remaining scenes between Dunst’s Torrance and Isis are far and away the best parts of the movie, as they explore what it means to be a leader, and how to inspire your squad to victory. Torrance struggles with insecurities about her new role, injuring one of her teammates on her very first time at the helm. Isis knows that the Clovers cheerleading squad is one of the few things her school has going for it, making their role all the more vital. As her teammates put it to Oprah stand-in Pauletta (Aloma Wright): “Where we come from, cheer isn’t a word we hear very often. You really could call us inspiration leaders.” Isis and the Clovers point to the importance of having pride in who you are, wherever you come from. So she is not about to take Torrance’s easily obtained check from her dad to get her team to nationals. She knows it will make all the difference to her teammates if they get there on their own.
Usually in sports rivalry movies, the villains are obvious: The standard evil rich-kid bullying team against a group of upstarts. Here, we find out about one-third into the movie that the bad guys are the teammates we’re first introduced to, due to the previous Toros captain’s thievery of the Clovers’ routines. Torrance’s challenge is how she transforms her team into an actual winning one from a thieving hack squad. Isis’ task is much harder: How to get a squad that’s been ignored all these years the attention and admiration that’s been stolen from them. Both leadership efforts are admirable, even though the movie wound up a bit lopsided toward one over the other.
But in the final showdown, there can only be one winner. And, again varying from every other “underdog” movie, here both teams are so awesome that even the squad that gets second place shrugs and says, “Feels like first.” (And the routines themselves are as riveting as the action sequences Reed would later helm in Ant-Man.) Bring It On often gets rolled into the silly teen sports genre, but a closer look reveals more than that. And the glimpse the trailer offers—of the movie that almost was—might have been better still.
Availability: Bring It On is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Netflix or possibly your local video store/library. It’s also available for rental or purchase through the major digital outlets.