Bring It On: How a sleeper hit about cheerleading became a direct-to-DVD franchise.

Deleted scenes, commentary, and more.
Jan. 26 2010 11:06 AM

Bring It On. And On. And On.

How a sleeper hit about cheerleading became a direct-to-DVD franchise. Plus: which sequel is best.

Bring It On: All or Nothing.

Bring It On was a sleeper hit when it came out 10 years ago. Fueled by the popularity of then-teen queen Kirsten Dunst, the movie grossed $70 million in the United States. Dunst stars as the very perky, very blond Torrance, heir apparent to Rancho Carne High School's "cheerocracy."Bring It On has something for everyone: For pom-pom twirlers past and present, there are plenty of gravity-defying cheer sequences. For those who hated cheerleaders, there is plenty of withering satire. (In the opening sequence, a dozen girls, all bouncy hair and abs of steel, look straight into the camera and declare: "We cheer and we lead/ We act like we're on speed.") And for guys, there are hot teen girls in short pleated skirts, among them Eliza Dushku, whose constant bitching about the lameness of it all gives voice to everything you want to shout at the screen.

Bring It On was in the news recently after a team of Tony Award-winning songwriters announced that a musical based on the film is bound for Broadway in 2011. But the film has already spawned a franchise, spanning four direct-to-DVD sequels: 2004's Bring It On Again, 2006's Bring It On: All or Nothing, 2007's Bring It On: In It To Win It, and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish, which came out last fall and has recently been airing on ABC Family.

Advertisement

Direct-to-DVD sequels are a fairly common practice in teen movies—there are twoVan Wilder sequels, twoCruel Intentions sequels, and four movies in the American Pie Presents series, none of which ever saw a theatrical release. There's money to be made in these films. The original Bring It On was made for $10 million; each of the sequels was made for roughly half that. Such follow-ups almost never feature the original cast. Some, like the American Pie sequels, will have a short cameo from an original cast member. (I hope Eugene Levy is paying for a lovely vacation home based on his numerous appearances in that franchise.) The production values are also usually much lower, and there's naturally a smaller marketing budget for movies that bypass the big screen as well. But even without a theatrical release, these films can make a tidy profit. Americans spent $18 million on Bring It On: All or Nothing. And $23 million on In It To Win It.

The question of whether the Bring It On sequels deserve an hour and a half of your time is more complicated. With no writers, producers, or cast members from the original, they can be easily seen as shoddy copies made in attempt to milk a few more million out of a movie that probably shouldn't be a franchise in the first place. At first glance, the sequels do look like pale imitations of the original. Each of them begins with a dream sequence and ends in a cheer-off; there are montages of squad auditions and practice routines; injuries abound (which is true to life; cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for women in high school and college, with more catastrophic injuries than in football); and they are chockablock with important lessons about playing fair and team spirit. But to their credit, the sequels also make room for the moments of self-conscious snarkiness that made the original such surprising fun. Mentions of "cheerwhores," "cheerbotomies," and "cheerbarrassments" abound, as do jokes at the expense of that most hallowed piece of cheerleader iconography, the spirit stick.

Herewith, a guide to which of the movies come closest to capturing the charm of the first Bring It On.

Bring It On Again: The first follow-up suffers from being a little too earnest. In a plot that's borrowed more from Revenge of the Nerds than Bring It On, college freshmen cheerleaders and BFFs Whittier and Monica leave the California State University team because the head cheerleader, Tina (Bree Turner, most recently seen in the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth), is a Reagan-loving control freak who won't let them choose their cheers—or their boyfriends. Whittier and Monica form their own ragtag cheer squad, which includes, naturally, a sourpuss feminazi and a drama geek and devises its own tepid cheers like, "C'mon, y'all let's hear it/ We got Stinger spirit." When the two teams battle for a spot at a national championship, the mean girls get their comeuppance and the geeks get a taste of championship.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.