Bring It On

Bring It On (2000)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Animated Anecdotes, Theatrical Trailer, Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes

There are those who say that popular media is intellectually bankrupt and may actually be making people dumber. I personally disagree with this, as I learned everything I know from movies and television and I’m a walking encyclopedia of fun-filled facts. There are certainly plenty of movies out there where you will learn a thing or two while being entertained. And if the film is especially clever, it may teach you about something that you had no urge to know about in the first place. For example, if you asked me if I wanted to learn about the world of competitive cheerleading, my answer would have been, "No." However, the film "Bring it On" taught me more than I would ever want to know about cheerleading, while at the same time, being a solid, entertaining film as well. "Bring it On" is coming to DVD from Universal Home Video, in a "Collector’s Edition".

"Bring it On" is set at Rancho Carne High, an affluent, suburban school. (For the record, Rancho Carne translates as "meat ranch." Interesting.) The Rancho Carne Toro cheerleaders have been national champions for five years in a row. As team-captain Big Red (Lindsay Sloane) is graduating, Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) is elected as the new head cheerleader. But, Torrance’s celebration is cut short as two bad things happen. First, Carver (Bianca Kajlich) is injured during practice. After a series of very funny auditions, transfer student Missy (Eliza Dushku, from "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer") is chosen as the new team member. Unfortunately, Missy immediately recognizes the Toro’s cheers. It appears that for years, Big Red had gone to East Compton high in the low-income section of L.A. and stolen cheers from the East Compton Clovers. Missy and Torrance travel to East Compton high to verify this, where they are confronted by Isis (Gabrielle Union), the Clover’s team captain, thus beginning a rivalry.

Torrance must now find a way to teach her squad a whole new set of routines, so that they can compete at the local level. To add to her stress level, Torrance finds herself attracted to Missy’s brother, Cliff (Jesse Bradford), a punk-rock fan who’s nothing like the other boys at Rancho Carne. Despite some resistance from the other cheerleaders, especially the catty Whitney (Nicole Bilderback) and Courtney (Clare Kramer), Torrance presses on and is determined to lead her squad to a sixth national title. However, Isis and the Compton Clovers may have something to do about that.

At first glance, "Bring it On" may seem like just another high-school movie. But, from the opening scene, with its wickedly clever and funny cheer spoofing the cheerleader stereotype, it’s clear that "Bring it On" is going to be a little different. (And, that damn cheer will stick in your mind for days!) The success of the film must be credited to the clever script by Jessic Bendinger and to director Peyton Reed. First of all, Reed graduated from my alma mater, the University of North Carolina, so he automatically gets cool points. He also cut his teeth directing behind-the-scenes featurettes, like "Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump". (Which is a must see, as it features the most woefully inaccurate plot synopsis of "Jurassic Park" as told by young Forrest Gump.) Note the subtle use of red-tinted frames at the 7:53 mark, and you’ll see that Reed has several tricks up his sleeve. Also, one can assume that his background with alternative music (he directed videos for SuperChunk and The Connells) influenced the soundtrack for "Bring it On".

Reed has wisely chosen to focus on the cheerleading and the character of Torrance in "Bring it On" and has left any superfluous material behind. (This becomes very apparent when one views the deleted scenes.) The movie is very well-paced and never drags. But, don’t assume that the film is only about cheerleading. As with films such like "Clueless" and "Can’t Hardly Wait", there is a focus on the human side of teenagers, and they are here portrayed as individuals who are interested in more than just partying and sex. The film nicely blends humor and drama, and is one of the few films that I’ve seen recently that is consistently entertaining throughout. It’s never great, but it’s never awful either.

"Bring it On" is another nice addition to Universal Home Video’s catalog of "Collector’s Editions." The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is clear and sharp, and there are no apparent defects from the source print. However, there is some noticeable grain in some of the shots. Much of the film takes places outdoors in bright sunlight, and the subtle graininess is clearly seen in these shots. The colors are reproduced exceedingly well, as the flesh-tones look natural and the reds of the Toro’s uniforms and the greens of the Clovers’ really stand out. The letterbox frame appears to be accurate, as there is no warping of the frame. The digital transfer has given the image a nice depth, and while it’s not perfect, it looks very good. As expected, the presentation on this DVD is devoid of any compression artifacts, fully maintaining the high level of detail found in the transfer.

There are two primary audio tracks on the DVD, a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1, as well as <$DTS,DTS> 5.1 track. The Dolby Digital <$5.1,5.1 mix> sounds very good, as it features a wide soundfield that also has a great deal of bass extension. During the performance by the Clovers, your subwoofer will definitely get a good workout. The dialogue is clear and audible at all times, and the music is nicely reproduced. I did spot some problems with the sound though. At the 1:19:27 point, there is an audio dropout, and at 1:23:25, there is a sudden shift in volume. Still, this is a good mix, with nice use of surround sound. The DTS track is equally impressive and even manages to add some texture to the track. Not only is the bass extension of the DTS track more voluminous, the track also contains ambient surrounds that are noticeably more distinguished and layered than in the Dolby Digital mix.

The "Bring it On" DVD offers enough special features to start a pep rally. There is an <$commentary,audio commentary> with director Peyton Reed, which is very humorous and informative. Reed mainly focuses on the dynamics of the story and talks about the work that went into making the film. He gives many specifics about the cheerleading stunts involved in the film, but doesn’t give much technical information about shooting the film. Please note that Reed says "horny guy" far too many times in the commentary. The commentary is definitely worth listening to, as you’ll get some insight into the financial concerns of the band Warrant. (I’m not kidding.) The commentary shows why Reed was chosen for this project, as he is funny, and clearly has a passion for storytelling. For more behind-the-scenes tidbits, we also have the Universal "Spotlight on Location". This 15-minute featurette offers interviews with the cast and crew and mainly focuses on how the cast performed the dance routines in the film. Here we learn that most of the cast had no experience with dancing or cheerleading, as they discuss the training that went into making the film.

With this DVD, Universal introduces a new feature, "Did You Know That?" — Universal’s Animated Anecdotes. To put it very simply, this is "Pop-up Video" for movies. As you watch the film, colored boxes will show up on the screen, which contain text. The anecdotes range from actual historical facts about cheerleading, to behind-the-scenes info on the making of the film, to personal trivialities about the cast. This featuring is very interesting and I can definitely see it becoming popular in the future. The best thing is that you can watch the anecdotes while listening to the <$commentary,audio commentary>. While this may result in information overload for some, it’s a great feature for those with little leisure time.

Director Peyton Reed introduces eight deleted scenes, most of which are very brief. As stated above, Reed clearly wanted to trim the fat from the film, as some of the cuts run only mere seconds. Also, there are three extended scenes, showing how some scenes in the existing film could have gone on longer. Again Reed showed no arrogance as he cut down these scenes to streamline the film. We are also treated to some 2-minutes of Super 8 film footage of the car wash scene. While this may seem like a waste of time, it does prove that one can never get enough of cheerleaders in bikinis. The oddest extra is a 90-second collage, made up of shots of Dunst and Dushku, testing wardrobe and makeup.

The Compton Clovers featured the members of the recording group Blaque and the video for their song "As If" is included on the DVD. Next, we have the theatrical trailer for "Bring it On", which has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. The production notes featured on the DVD are almost exactly the same as those found in the insert booklet. And, of course, we have cast & crew bios. The recommendations section has three bonus trailers, for "The Skulls", October Sky" and "Reality Bites".

I can safely say that "Bring it On" is the best film about cheerleading that I’ve ever seen. But, it’s not perfect. There is questionable continuity considering time. The nationals are in the spring, yet the squad practices at football games up until the last minute? Also, in real life, when the cheerleaders from California hit the humidity in Florida for the finals, they would drop dead. Those issues aside, "Bring it On" is a lot of fun and the DVD will keep you busy for hours. And as the film earned $70 million at the box office, it can be assumed that there are a lot of people walking around out there who now know way too much about cheerleading. Now, that’s scary.