Back in 2000, a bouncy little gem written by Jessica Bendinger called Bring it On was released, hilariously detailing the trials and tribulations of the world of high school cheerleading. It featured dimpled cutie Kirsten Dunst and former Buffy hottie Eliza Dushku, as well as a non-stop stream of gut-busting dialogue.
Here’s a little sample:
“I am a choreographer. That’s what I do. You are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded. What you do is a tiny, pathetic subset of dancing. I will attempt to turn your robotic routines into poetry, written with the human body. Follow me, or perish, sweater monkeys.”
Last year, Bendinger wrote and directed Stick It, about a tough little outcast who just happens to be a kick-ass gymnast. I remember seeing the previews and thinking that it looked pretty good, but somehow I never got my ass to the theatre to see it.
I watched it last on DVD last night with some friends and I have to urge you to run out to your local video store (or for Netflix aficionados, your mailbox) and bring it home, STAT.
Haley, the lead (played by future star Missy Peregrym) is Jo Polniaczek 2.0. Same badass demeanor, same sassy mouth, same improbable ponytail. She’s even got her own little Blair Warner, in the form of Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), whose teasing and overwrought diva antics thinly veil her admiration for Haley.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that she looks like the lanky lovechild of Nancy McKeon and Hillary Swank, but with wristbands, a rap sheet, and a ferocious backflip.
Affable hippie Jeff Bridges plays her coach. He pushes her, he doesn’t take her crap, he gets her. He even–gasp!–respects her. He’s The Dude for crying out loud!
Haley leads her fellow gymnasts in a leotard-clad revolt against the rigid, lame and sexist scoring system. She doesn’t just stick it, she Sticks It to The Man!
Polly Holliday, aka Flo “Kiss My Grits” Castleberry from TV’s Alice (yes, I am that old) makes a cameo as a kindly judge who really doesn’t want to send Haley to juvie. I’ve missed her!
But most importantly, Haley is not saddled with an obligatory boyfriend in order to signify that she is straight and that her athletic prowess will not harm you (or your heterosexual daughters). Yes, there are a couple of boys, and they are her friends, but they are nice guys and one of them is called “gay” in a non-homophobic way, and he doesn’t deny it.
When’s the last time you saw a movie about a tomboy that didn’t end with her sucking the face of some scrawny little dude with a three-hair mustache? Haley is uber-butch and she just might be gay. Because they never say either way, I say make up your own version of Haley’s inner life. It might just look a lot like yours did in high school.
And if all of this isn’t enough, just know that the movie is funny. Lots of good zingy lines and many, many pratfalls. Why is it hilarious when someone falls really hard on the balance beam and injures her girl parts? I don’t know, it just is.