Eight years ago, Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union charmed the nation with their portrayal of rival high school cheerleaders in “Bring It On.” Dunst (the “Spider-Man” trilogy) and Union (“Bad Boys II,” “Ugly Betty”) have since ditched their pom-poms for more dramatic roles, but their cheer legacy will last forever.
With a new generation of cheerleaders rediscovering the magic of “Bring It On” through Netflix and On-Demand, the big question is how the Dunst-Union legacy has been impacted by the two sequels that carried on without them.
Today, we’ll tackle Part II, better known as “Bring It On Again.”
The girls are now at California State College, a place where you don’t dare say “girls.” Whittier, our blonde protagonist, makes that mistake when she first arrives on campus and asks for directions to the Bancroft Hall dormitory. “We can’t direct you to Bancroft Hall,” sniffs a modern dance student who looks down on cheerleaders, “because Nathaniel Bancroft was a slave owner and an imperialist!”
As a spoof on contemporary college life, “Bring It On Again” succeeds as well as the “Beverly Hills 90210” or “Saved By The Bell” casts survived after high school. The sequel contains plenty of campus Darwinist fodder such as sororities and fraternities viewing themselves as the highest on the food chain with campus radio DJs and student cafeteria workers being equivalent to bacteria.
Surprise, surprise: Whittier’s love interest happens to be a campus DJ who also cleans trays. She is forced to make a life-altering decision: Do I defy the social order and date a working class guy who makes me laugh – or do I cultivate my relationships with rich snobby girls, who make far better career contacts?
As a sequel to “Bring It On,” however, fans of the original movie are guaranteed to feel cheated. The fact that none of the original cast was signed (supporting actress Eliza Dushku could have carried a new film on her own) probably sealed the sequel’s fate as a straight-to-DVD release. The cover features one white cheerleader and one black cheerleader – a naked attempt to capture the spirit of the original characters played by Dunst and Union. But it’s like when the producers of “The Dukes of Hazzard” stopped negotiating contract extensions with Tom Wopat and John Schneider and randomly replaced them with a dark-haired guy and a dirty blond guy.
“Bring It On Again” is simply a brand new movie slapped with the brand name of a successful film. Scoff if you will, but the formula of the original “Bring It On” worked on numerous levels. It explored artistic integrity, having the courage to address the often-hushed issue of cheer and choreography plagiarism. It explored race relations, daring to show the tension between suburban white teenagers and their inner city black peers when thrust into competition. And, moreover, the lyrics to the cheer routines worked as both clever social satire and as something that made you hum along.
“BRRRRR!!!! It’s Cold in Here! There Must Be Some Toros In the Atmosphere!”
We LOVE that cheer.
The “Bring It” sequel steals its plot straight out of “Revenge of The Nerds.” Horrified by the snobs running the official Stingers squad, our heroines (newcomers Anne Judson-Yager and Faune Chambers) form their own team, the Renegades, using ex-members of the band and other clubs disbanded due to severe budget cuts. The football team and cheerleaders, naturally, still maintain the budget of the Pentagon.
Time for a showdown in the campus auditorium. The misfit Renegades, tutored with only a few veterans of cheerleading camp, outdance the stuck-up Stingers to earn the right to represent the school at the national championships. Also straight from the “Nerds,” the Renegades win the contest with a futuristic techno-dance routine (with Whittier’s DJ boyfriend spinning the soundtrack).
Overall, the most outrageous part of “Bring It On Again” is what’s missing. In the original, Isis (Gabrielle Union) stared into Torrance’s (Kirsten Dunst)’s eyes before their contest and dared her to “Bring It On.” She challenged her competition to rise to the occasion – to overachieve on the cheer floor so that a victory would have real significance.
In the sequel, we never even hear the words “Bring It On!” Not once.
Living in a cheerocracy, that oversight (or neglect) is simply unforgivable.