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Bring It On

Two squads, one championship ... cue the techno music and let the rumble begin!


Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) is on top of the world, having just been named captain of the Rancho Carne Toros pep squad, a five-time national championship team. But when she discovers that her award-winning routines are being ripped off by a competing squad, Shipman must act fast to save her team's reputation. The formula works because it never takes itself too seriously, a comical blend of saccharine sincerity and self-mockery, complete with memorable lines like ''Missy's the poo, so take a big whiff.'' But the plot does go deeper than one might expect, thanks to a couple of expected twists. And when the final showdown arrives, the tension mounts - which, if you've ever seen the national cheerleading tournaments on ESPN, is no surprise.


Eighteen-year-old Dunst (''The Virgin Suicides'') is already a veteran talent, but her skill falls a bit flat with an exaggerated portrayal of an eternally perky pep leader. Fortunately, her over-pepped performance is toned down by ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' Goth-chic beauty Eliza Dushku as the reluctant, sarcastic new squad member. Gabrielle Union (''She's All That''), backed by members of the sassy soul/R&B group Blaque, is fiery as the driven captain of the Clovers. Jesse Bradford (''Romeo + Juliet'') is affable as Torrance's love interest, but comes close to overusing Meg Ryan's crooked-smile-for-cuteness technique.


Peyton Reed, whose highest-profile projects were remakes of Disney's ''The Love Bug'' and ''The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,'' keeps the focus simple: the bright cheerleader outfits and the acrobatic routines. Save for a dream sequence and a hilarious tryout scene, Reed avoids the flashier kitsch his teen-film contemporaries have relied on. He also lets the tension build naturally during the cheerleading competitions. Just see if you can resist holding your breath during the 20-foot tosses.

Bottom Line

Surprisingly fun fare, ''Bring It On'' wins the popularity contest.


Starring Kirsten Dunst, Gabrielle Union, Jesse Bradford, Eliza Dushku and Claire Kramer.

Directed by Peyton Reed. Produced by Marc Abraham. Screenplay by Jessica Bendinger. Released by Universal.