The early '70s were a defining time in the cinematic history of cheerleaders. That's when those perky sirens of the sidelines jiggled onto movie screens in a BIG way. In 1972, Tex Schramm kicked things off when he INVENTED the hot-pants and pompons phenomenon now known the world over as The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. In that same year exploitationer Paul Glicker debuted The Cheerleaders, which incidentally, the director of Bring It On (2000, 99 minutes) says he watched in "preparation" for doing his decidedly more family-friendly contribution to the subgenre. The decade also saw Jack Hill's immortal Swinging Cheerleaders, but reached its climax in 1978 when Bambi Woods showed MORE than just her team spirit in Debbie Does Dallas. While the Bring It On babes aren't exactly sex-starved vixens, the flick's surprise box-office success should spawn the racier retreads we CineSchlockers crave (the PG-13 Sugar & Spice simply won't do).
The movie: Toros head cheerleader Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) inherits a scandal when she learns that the routines her school has been tearing up national competitions with were stolen from an East Compton soul squad called the Clovers. This is the story of the Toros' struggle toward redemption, and ultimately to an even team-to-team competition with their wronged rivals. It's anything but easy. One teammate tumbles from atop a human pyramid. They ALL fall victim to the inhumanity of "spirit fingers" when Torrance decides to hire a choreographer to create a new, ORIGINAL routine. Oh, and they have a really nice (all too brief) bikini car wash to raise the guy's paycheck. The 17-year-old starlet also makes time to fall in love with the brother of her punk-gymnast-turned-spirit-queen best friend (Eliza Dushku). At long last, the Clovers and Toros meet in the sort of Jock Jams extravaganza that ESPN airs over and over, and by way of this national cheerleading competition comes greater racial understanding. CineSchlockers remember the exceedingly lovely Ms. Dushku as Faith from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," also look for her this spring in Soul Survivors which MAY improve the pitiful plight of teen-ensemble horror.
Notables: No breasts. Multiple pompons. Seven cheers. Five heavily-choreographed dance numbers. Projectile puking. Spirit fingers. One fart. Gratuitous slow-mo. Spitting. Bloody nose. Over-sized novelty check. Gratuitous dream sequence.
Quotables: A high-five to screenwriter Jessica Bendinger for such politically incorrect lines as: "Carver will strictly be cheering in the Special Olympics until March" and "Missy looks like an uber dyke." Gabrielle Union as the icy Isis manages to deliver this WITHOUT the cliche head bob: "I know you don't think a white girl made that s%#@ up!?" Les issues the male-cheerleader sexuality role call, "Well, Jan's straight, while I'm -- controversial." Upright Citizens Brigade's Ian Roberts is Sparky the failed Broadway choreographer who sums up his clientele, "Cheerleaders are dancers gone retarded." And here's the best of the cheers: "I'm sexy. I'm cute. I'm popular to boot. I'm bitchin'. Great hair. The boys all love to stare. I'm wanted. I'm hot. I'm everything you're not. I'm pretty. I'm cool. I dominate this school. Who am I? Just guess! Guys wanna touch my chest. I'm rockin'. I smile and many think I'm vile. I'm flyin'. I jump. You can look but don't you hump. I'm major. I roar. I swear I'm not a whore. We cheer and we lead. We act like we're on speed. Hate us 'cause we're beautiful? Well, we don't like you either. We're cheerleaders!"
Time codes: Dialogue-heavy trip into womens locker room (5:10). Erotic dancer auditions to Warrant's "Cherry Pie" (14:55). Angry sports-bra bouncing (21:28). Bikini car wash (42:55). Torrance has a spastic fit (1:04:30). "Hey Mickey" montage finale (1:30:55).
Audio/Video: First rate in both regards. Faultless anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) print. Plus BOTH Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks that especially thump during the musical base riffs, while the dialogue is also crisp.
Extras: Lively audio commentary by director Peyton Reed. Nothing overly surprising, except when he jokingly tattles on Ms. Dushku for showing up hung over to the Car Wash shoot. He also introduces three extended scenes (Stripper audition!) and 10 deleted scenes (about 14 minutes). There's also a three-minute car wash video! Brief wardrobe and makeup screen test. Blaque's "As If" video. Theatrical trailer, plus reels for October Sky, Reality Bites and The Skulls. The film can also be viewed with Universal's version of "Pop Up Video" in which factoids appear on screen throughout. At least one easily located Easter egg.
Final thought: So infectiously upbeat and funny that the lack of carnality typical of the cheerleader genre ALMOST goes unnoticed. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.