What, you thought I was kidding?
Yes, last week saw the release of the fifth installment of everyone’s favorite cheersploitation franchise, Bring it On: Fight to the Finish. And as the Internet’s foremost Bringitologist, I figured I should spread the word to the masses, and I’ve got to admit: This is the best Bring It On movie since Bring It On 3: All Or Nothing.
That may sound like damnation with faint praise to the Non-On-Bringers among you, but the fact is that All Or Nothing (also known as Bring It On: The One With Hayden Panettiere) is far and away the best of the straight-to-video sequels. None of them, of course, are anywhere near as good as the original (which thanks largely to Jessica Bendinger’s script, is, you know, an actual movie) but All or Nothing is definitely better than In It To Win It and well ahead of Bring It On Again. And on the first viewing at least, Fight to the Finish is pretty comparable.
And apparently someone at Universal agrees with me, as you can buy a three-pack with Bring It Ons 1, 3 and 5. They call it the “All-Star Pack” (as opposed to my beloved “Cheerbook Collection,” which included 1-4 and stickers), but they might as well have just called it Bring It On: Just The Good Ones.
So what sets Fight to the Finish apart? For one thing, it actually looks like a film, which is a nice step up from In It To Win It, which had the look of an ABC Family Original Movie. And for another, it opens up with a group of Latino gangstas doing a routine set to a dance mix of “Lean Like a Cholo.”
This alone would be enough to make it the best of the sequels, even if it didn’t include a scene where a cheerleader says this:
Well it made me laugh.
But that’s not to say that Bring It On Cinco (the working title that I still prefer to the more generic one it ended up with) is without its faults. It’s pretty well riddled with ’em, chief among them being that the protagonist is the most unlikeable person in the entire movie.
The plot is essentially All Or Nothing done in reverse, which isn’t too much of a surprise since this one was cowritten by All Or Nothing screenwriter Alyson Fouse, re-teaming with Elena Song, with whom she cowrote In It To Win It. In that one, upper-class Britney had to deal with losing her wealth and social status at an affluent high school when she transferred to Crenshaw Heights, but here, Lina (Christina Milian) goes through the opposite when her mother marries a rich guy and she moves to a palatial estate, transferring from East LA to the much nicer Malibu Visa High.
And she is a total dick about it.
Admittedly, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Bring It On franchise thus far, it’s that cheerleaders at poor schools are better and truer friends than the fake-ass busters of the rich neighborhoods, but considering this is Bring It On 5, I’m pretty sure that this kind of metafictional thinking didn’t influence the script all that much. Instead, we’re given a girl who thinks that suddenly having a ton of money and going to a school without the occasional drive-by is the worst thing that’s ever happened to her, and she takes out her frustration by being an incredible jerk to her new stepfather and adoring stepsister. She never really acts like a hero, and is more the protagonist by default, mainly by virtue of the fact that the camera is pointed at her more than it’s pointed at anyone else.
Also, she’s apparently a good enough cheerleader that her new school makes her captain after she practices one routine with them for literally less than one minute, but that might have more to do with the fact that all of the school’s good cheerleaders have defected to an independent squad.
Which brings me to my next question about this thing: An independent cheerleading squad? Can you do that? I mean, I know that cheerleading is a sport on its own and all that (and I know this because the Wikipedia article for Cheerleading used to have that sentence with six citations, because someone wanted to be! Defensive! B-E! Defensive!) but isn’t it sort of rooted in, you know, cheering for something? A cheerleading squad with nothing to cheer for seems like it might be the saddest thing ever, but I guess it’s possible. If any of you reading this are cheerleaders, let me know.
Aw, who am I kidding? Of course none of you are cheerleaders. That’s why you’re reading a comics blog.
Anyway, the non-school squad (the Jaguars), are led by Avery…
…who is portrayed as the villain, despite the fact that forming an independent cheer squad after you’re cut from the school’s is exactly what the heroine of Bring It On Again does.
I’d try to figure out the mechanics, but I was more worried about the fact that Avery’s villain motivation seems to be based entirely on the fact that Lina is dating her brother (a guy who struck me as the love child of Jason Bateman and Jimmy Olsen), which mostly plays out in a scene where she hassles him at the pool in her bikini and at a party where she tries to distract him from wooing Lina by slutting up the dance floor.
Oh, and after Lina’s team beats Avery’s at the Big Cheer Competition (spoiler warning!), Avery immediately throws herself into her brother’s arms for comfort, leading our two romantic leads to end the movie with one of them with an armload of someone else.
Straight up: This thing’s got more incestuous subtext than Cruel Intentions.
As to how Lina manages to beat the Jaguars despite their renowned Jaguar Skills (Hoooooooo!), that’s the source of another bit of consternation. In order to train her new squad, Lina somehow engineers the transfer of two of her old squadmates to Malibu Vista, with absolutely no explanation of how they got there. There’s the suggestion that Lina’s stepdad arranges it and that Lina invites them to live in his house without asking, which is just rude, but how this happens isn’t really addressed, other than a deleted scene (and yes, I watched the deleted scenes) where the girls fake a drive-by shooting to convince him to let Treyvonetta go to MVHS.
The only time that it’s ever brought up beyond that is when the subterfuge is found out and the girls are expelled due to the machinations of Avery’s personal Iago, Kayla, who gives us the single best line of this (and possibly any other) film:
Despite those (admittedly major) flaws and the fact that the franchise once again rejects the nonstandard, Rocky-esque climax of the original, it’s still pretty well-written, well-acted, and it was nice to see Nikki SooHoo show up, as her role in Jessica Bendinger’s Stick It makes her the first ever actress to star in two movies of the Bring It On family. So yes, it’s certainly enjoyable as direct-to-video Bring It On sequels go.
Which basically means that it’s enjoyable for me and Dr. K.