Pretty Vacancy: Bringitonathon Part 1

It’s April 5th 2015. I’ve been woken up by church bells calling the faithful to celebrate(?) Easter. I’m not a religious person, so instead I’m sat in a room, alone, with all five Bring It On films for the latest in my often-masochistic occasional series of franchise marathons. I’m about to watch all five in a row, with occasional breaks for the production of sandwiches or the heating of freezer food. I’m wearing an old Sonic Youth t-shirt and a pair of comfy grey jogging bottoms with an unfortunate hole in the crotch. Between personal decency and modesty – and because I live in a house share – this means wrapping myself in a threadbare dressing gown for those aforementioned missions to the kitchen. And I’m going to watch all of Bring It On.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a cry for help.

But in truth I have higher hopes for this venture than I did for Fast & FuriousStep Up or Twilight. The high school movie is an undervalued breeding ground for insights and observations on the pangs and transformations of youth and young adulthood. Recent documentary Beyond Clueless may not have wholly laid bare the complexities at large in this arena, but it did remind the viewer quite wonderfully of the sun-kissed vitality of these movies. When it came to picking the next dismissed-or-dismissable franchise for this series, Beyond Clueless sent Bring It On to the top of the deck. And not just because of the pleats and pom-poms.

Honestly, this isn’t a cry for help.

I’m not expecting art, but I’ve heard good things about the first installment at least. And I’m ready and willing to give these tales of cheerleading every chance. Enough preamble. Let’s, ahem, bring it on.

09:01 am Bring It On (2000)

09:02: Studio logos. This first movie is directed by Peyton Reed, now overseeing Marvel’s Ant-Man after whatever happened with Edgar Wright. Let’s check out some previous form. I forgot to mention that, while I haven’t partaken in any Easter-based activities in more than ten years, I have come into ownership of a Pot Noodle themed Easter egg (presently still boxed), proof that merchandising really has no limits. Today seems the fitting day to see just what Pot Noodle themed chocolate is like. I’m looking at this circumspect item and I’m recalling the words of Fletcher from Whiplash: “I will demolish you.”

09:03: I think it’s a bit early for this much happiness.

09:04: Character introductions in the medium of chanting. Interesting. Glad they confirmed they’re not whores. I hadn’t actually assumed as much, but, yup, good to know girls.

09:05: Oh, it was a dream. I dream of introducing all my friends through chanting all the time. Not sure any of my friends are a villainous God from Buffy though… Kirsten Dunst’s boyfriend already deserves a slap. Do American teenagers really sound like him?

09:06: This even looks like the high school from Buffy… Same location?

09:07: Locker room bitching.

09:08: “The hardest pyramid known to cheerleading… and mankind”. Sounds legit.

09:09: BOOM! Training montage. I’m eyeing Pot Noodle egg.

09:10: So this is fairly efficient so far. Dunst is set-up as cheerleading team captain. The redhead has been identified as the Not-Nice One and there’s a little bit of agreeable sassy humour in the Joss Whedon / Kevin Williamson vein.

09:11: Oh shit, Jesse Bradford.

09:12: Is Kirsten Dunst’s character named after a car?

09:15: Try-outs montage.

09:17: And adding to the Buffy deja vu, here comes Eliza Dushku. She has attitude. You can tell because she has combats on. And, err, has keys. I have to admit, despite having never seen this before, it is triggering a significant amount of nostalgia. I kind of want to watch all of Buffy season 3 right now. A guaranteed marathon of awesome.

09:19: “A cheerocracy”. Nice!

09:22: Dushku has a similar reaction to the cheerleading team as I have to admit I’m having. She’s currently showing Dunst that her moves are plagiarised. It’s like kicking a puppy.

09:27: Okay, I’ve opened Pot Noodle egg. The contents are legitimately disappointing. It’s smaller than my fist. A significant portion of this product is a ceramic mug I’m frankly never going to use, except maybe to collect tears over my egg disappointment. Meanwhile in the movie Dunst is flashing back to having a curse put on her or something because she dropped a stick. I’m punching my way into the egg. An update on the quality of Pot Noodle chocolate to follow.

09:32: Dushku wears her official outfit for the first time. Sexuality is discussed. This chocolate is… okay actually.

09:34: Apparently “come on, cheer us” is an acceptable chant.

09:35: Someone said “bring it on”.

09:36: A cheer-off is in progress. Seems to involve a lot of crotch thrusting and/or words written on bums. In the crowd Jesse Bradford stares from behind a copy of The Naked Ape like he might murder all of them. Meanwhile Clare Kramer gets fingered. While cheerleading.

09:41: A tooth brush-off is now happening, between Dunst and Bradford. Supposed to be charming. It’s pretty weird.

09:42: Ha! A Matchbox 20 poster.

09:44: Apparently, “You’re not my sister, are you?” is appropriate sexy-talk. Also I think I just mashed some chocolate into my laptop keyboard.

09:45: Found footage-style car washing to the tune of a song I haven’t heard in years. Also the exchange: “Nice car” “Thanks, I drive hard“.

09:48: I had to imdb the song. Jungle Brothers “Freakin’ You”. The team have a new coach / choreographer. He’s big, gay and mean. “Cheerleaders are dancers than have gone retarded” is said.

09:49: Training montage. Okay, I’m definitely over half way through this first movie (they’re all around the 90-minute mark, which is more or less ideal). This is a pretty good high school movie. A lot of the expected stereotypes are present and correct and its pleasingly self-aware of this. Admittedly we’re nowhere near the whip-smart self-referential glory of Mean Girls, but if the following four continue in this spirit (yeah, optimist) then today will go just fine.

09:57: Apparently plagiarism in cheerleading is rife.

10:02: Plot type stuff is happening (mainly cheerleading). It’s encouraging that I’ve just realised I forgot to get myself a drink before beginning this, but am waiting ’til the first film ends to get one instead of pausing and messing with the timeline or, more damning, leaving it playing while I get one.

10:05: Jesse Bradford has sent Kirsten Dunst a tape with a rock song he wrote her on it. She was sad but now she’s cheerleading to it. Obviously. I wonder who he got to play drums etc with him? He quite understandably didn’t appear to have any friends…

10:09: Training montage.

10:10: Dunst dumped that annoying boyfriend from way back at the beginning. I don’t even know if we saw him in the intervening 70 minutes. Wait… *sniff* I have something in my eye. Actually I do. It’s chocolate. No genuine loss.

10:15: When did Eliza Dushku stop being in things? I also need to watch Dollhouse again. I liked that show.

1017: Jeez, Kirsten Dunst’s home phone is the size of, I dunno, my door? I think it’s time for the championship finals.

10:20: Ample slow motion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pleats.

10:22: “Shit! Where the hell are my spanky-pants?” is the kind of dialogue I just don’t usually encounter. Honest.

10:23: Nice to show the chief competition, the East Compton Clovers, overcoming their own insecurities. Just a small moment, but a nice one. They are better, though.

10:25: Watching this film has made me feel conspicuously inactive.  Also the neighbours have started ‘sharing’ their music for the day. You may hear more about this as Bringitonathon progresses…

10:26: Cheerleading.

10:30: Suspense! Okay, SPOILER time… It’s kind of nice how happy the team were to come second. Second is good out of, err, how many teams were there again? (See, I was right, the East Compton Clovers were better)

10:32: Credits. With outtakes. And a cast song. This is and was quite a bit of fun. Modest in ambition, but it did everything it needed to (3/5). I’m really thirsty.

*     *     *     *     *

10:42: Bring It On Again (2004) I have a drink now; you can stop worrying.

10:43: Studio logos. I’ve been warned about this one, and viewer votes on imdb rank this lowest of all five with (presently) a worrying 4.3 out of 10.

10:44: We open with a poorly lit gymnasium and some girl getting shouted at by the silhouette of some goon of a judge. Clearly this is a dream. Is this girl supposed to be the same character Dunst was playing in the last movie?

10:45: Oooh! Felicia Day! In other news, this is essentially Bring It On: The College Years.

10:48: I think I’m with Felicia Day on being outraged that ballet has been cut over cheerleading. And not just because she’s Felicia Day. Ultimately, from hereon I suspect these movies are for people who actually do take cheerleading seriously…

10:50: The lead girl in this seems to express most of her emotions through wincing. Her first memorable line of dialogue; “This is terrible.” BAD OMENS.

10:52: Try-outs montage. I see a familiar formula is asserting itself…

10:54: Okay, the girl I thought was the lead really is the lead girl. Looking her up… Anne Judson-Yager. Her second most notable credit seems to be as Pre-Crime Public Service Announcer in Minority Report. Her character is called Whittier. Which kind of throws down a gauntlet that I don’t think the rest of the film is going to pick up…

10:57: Is this guy The Dean? He seems like a jerk. Ah, reassuring stereotypes.

10:58: Locker-room bitching.

11:01: There’s a weird guy with a beard acting socially awkward all by himself, yelling at blonde girls. I don’t relate to this at all.

11:02: He’s a DJ. In other news, Alex and Pippa if you’re reading this, I’ve been working on the setlist for your wedding. I have some good ideas…

11:04: Ah, swimming pool mating rituals. Watch montage documentary Beyond Clueless for significant evidence of how common this is in American teen drama.

11:06: Training montage. Finishing off the Pot Noodle egg.

11:08: George W Bush just got referred to as one of the three greatest presidents of the last 200 years and I can’t tell if it was a joke or not. Is this the point that most people give up on this movie?

11:12: “If you wanna be the bomb diggity, you’ve got to act like the bomb diggity.” I don’t know what to say about this line.

11:14: A man dressed as a giant bee is beatboxing very badly. In other news I’d somehow convinced myself I was halfway through this one, but it’s only a third of the way. So far it is living up to its reputation.

11:15: Cheerleading.

11:19: The most civilised frat-party I’ve ever seen depicted in film. Faune A. Chambers has more screen charisma as the lead’s friend. In fact, even the bitchy squad leader does. I feel bad about being mean to the lead here. I also feel like I’ve eaten a lot more chocolate than I a) normally do and b) should’ve. But there are still Oreos on the nightstand… (other biscuits are available).

11:25: Whittier quits the team. So does her friend. I’m definitely not eyeing the 3DS on the nightstand by those Oreos. No. Stay strong. I can do this.

11:27: Basically, if I was thirsty in this movie there’d be no pausing, but there would be drinks.

11:30: I’m drinking my drink for something to do.

11:31: Okay, let’s be fair here. Bring It On Again is… competently made. As in, the crew probably all knew their basic jobs and have been doing them to an acceptable level of proficiency. Some of the actors are trying to bring it (on). The film also moves in the correct direction through time. I’m clutching at straws a little now. Ooh, Felicia Day’s back!

11:36: So Whittier and her friend Monica are starting their own team, which includes disgruntled ballet dancers and musical theatre rejects. So we’re back in training montage territory. There’s a definitely proto-Step Up vibe to proceedings. So now we know where to lay the blame for that.

11:39: Someone said, “bring it in.”

11:41: Cheerleading. Of croquet.

11:44: “Make like a Tom and cruise.” Also Felicia Day has the best-looking pizza I’ve seen in a lonnnng time. That’s not a euphemism.

11:45: That guy from earlier was  The Dean. Stupid Dean.

11:47: Apparently “tanorexic” is a thing you’re allowed to call somebody if you’re the hero in a movie.

11:52: Does “hey, ho, we’ll put you on the flow” mean what I think it means…?

11:54: After this movie comes lunch (I didn’t have breakfast and THE POT NOODLE EGG DOESN’T COUNT). I’m going to make a chicken and ham salad sandwich. There’ll be a gherkin on the side (I’m pro-gherkin, deal with it). Maybe even some posh crisps. Is this what you came to this blog to read about? Is it? No. No it certainly isn’t. But it’s more interesting than anything else that’s happening right now, and the thought of this slightly unnecessary and early lunch is a large part of what’s getting me through this movie. Also, Day just said something about sucking that my adolescent self would’ve rewound and relived, giggling at the double entendre. But there’s no way I’m extending this film any longer than it needs to be. I’ve grown as a person. I’M AN ADULT.

11:58: Cheerleading.

12:01: “Cheergasm” is a word now.

12:03: Whittier’s ‘renegades’ are so good that even The Dean is tapping his foot. That Dean. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Jesse Bradford.

12:05: Suspense. I’m reminded of that AvP tagline: Whoever wins we lose.

12:06: I can’t even be bothered to spoil who won that.

12:07: Credits / outtakes / cast song. Which according to the time code take up a full 6 minutes, rendering the actual film part of Bring It On Again a trim 84 minutes long.  But damn that felt a lot longer than film one. Sorry, everyone involved in Bring It On Again, you were in/made a shitty movie (1/5). Time for a break.

To be continued…

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