You're Old: 'Bring It On' Came Out 15 Years Ago

You're Old: 'Bring It On' Came Out 15 Years Ago

Aug 25, 2015

Teen comedies have a reputation for being lousy. That's probably due to the large number of them that are lousy. So when one rises above the mediocrity, teens notice it, adults notice it, and before you can put the "duh" in "dumb," you've got yourself a cult favorite. 
That's what happened late in the summer of 2000, when Bring It On hit theaters and we all gladly joined the cheertatorship. The sunny, slightly satiric take on rival cheerleading squads boosted Kirsten Dunst's career, made Gabrielle Union a rising star, and introduced us to Peyton Reed, future director of Ant-Man. Oh, and it came out 15 years ago this week, which means it's time to put down the pom-poms and admit it: You're Old®.  
If things had gone the way screenwriter Jessica Bendinger planned, Bring It On would be called Cheer Fever, and it would be a relic of the mid-90s, not the turn of the century. Bendinger, a former journalist and a graduate of Columbia University, sold the script in 1996 after many, many failed pitches to various studios, who all passed for the usual reasons: it didn't sound commercial enough; movies aimed at girls don't do well; nobody had made a film about competitive cheerleading before. (If there's one thing Hollywood execs are afraid of, it's doing something that someone else has not already done.) 


Even after the script was sold, it gathered dust for a few years. The success of Clueless in 1995 had kicked off a spate of PG-13 high school comedies. Some of them were good (10 Things I Hate About YouCan't Hardly Wait); some of them were profitable (Never Been KissedShe's All That); but few of them were both. Most were forgettable misfires with generic titles like Drive Me Crazy and Whatever It Takes. For something to stand out in that crowd, it would actually have to be, you know, good.
Fortunately, Bendinger's script was a winner, with fresh, snarky dialogue and a wry perspective on high school sports, and even in Hollywood the cream usually rises to the top. The project was green-lighted. Peyton Reed, who'd been directing the Upright Citizen's Brigade TV show, was hired to direct what was now called Bring It On, his first movie. A cast was assembled and put through weeks of practice for the highly demanding cheerleading scenes. The movie's creative team wanted to avoid the overuse of stunt doubles, lest the cheer sequences look phony. And they didn't! You have to appreciate a movie that goes the extra mile. 
Bring It On opened to happy reviews from critics (myself included) who were pleasantly surprised to see something of above-average wit 1) about teenagers and 2) coming out in the late summer. The movie scored with audiences, too, taking first place at the box office for two weeks. It eventually made $68 million, or around $103 million at today's ticket prices, making it about aTrainwreck- or Spy-sized hit. There were also a few in-name-only sequels, but we like to pretend there weren't. 
Besides being a boost for Dunst, Union, and Eliza Dushku, Bring It On was a boost for competitive cheerleading, which hadn't yet been prominently featured in pop culture. The movie took it seriously as a sport ... but not too seriously. It seemed to laugh with cheerleaders, not at them.
Echoes of this affectionately sardonic attitude and its hint of girl power can be seen in Mean Girls and GleePitch Perfect surely would not exist without its influence, and then where would we aca-be? To paraphrase Torrance Shipman, Bring It On was the poo, and we're all still taking a big whiff. 
When Bring It On was released, on Aug. 25, 2000...
- It easily won the top spot at the late-summer box office, ahead of fellow newcomers The Art of War (with Wesley Snipes) andThe Crew (with Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds as grumpy old Mafiosi). Also in the multiplexes that weekend: The CellSpace CowboysThe Original Kings of ComedyWhat Lies Beneath, and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.
- The songs you heard on the radio on your way to the theater might have included: "Incomplete" (Sisqo), "Bent" (Matchbox Twenty), "Jumpin', Jumpin'" (Destiny's Child), "It's Gonna Be Me" (N Sync), "Try Again" (Aaliyah), and "Everything You Want" (Vertical Horizon). Or maybe you just turned the radio off. Yeesh. 
- The Republican and Democratic national conventions had just been held, nominating George W. Bush and Al Gore as their presidential candidates. The election was 10 weeks away. In a surprise twist, the results of the election were 15 weeks away.
- TV stalwarts Big Brother and Dora the Explorer had just debuted. Early EditionBeverly Hills 90210, and Party of Five had recently ended. The craze for prime-time network game shows that had begun a year earlier with Who Wants to Be a Millionairewas still in effect, with The Weakest Link new to American TV, and reboots of Twenty-One and To Tell the Truth on their way. 
- Sir Alec Guinness, best remembered (much to his dismay) for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, had died a few weeks earlier. Reports that his ghost continued to show up offering sage advice have not been confirmed.  

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