Interestingly enough, one of the most tired and boring cliches in both film and high school has been the subject of two genuinely enjoyable, if fluffy, movies in less than a year. I speak of course, about cheerleaders and both 'Bring It On' and 'Sugar and Spice'. But while 'Sugar and Spice' was campy and surreal, 'Bring It On' is a self-consciously serious movie advancing the idea of the cheerleader as athlete. While this idea is an honest and accurate one, it's one that audiences will only take so far. Cheerleaders may indeed be finer athletes than those on the sports teams they cheer for- I'd believe it, although I've never been a cheerleader and only rarely watch them on ESPN. I do know, though, that 'sissy, girly' activities are very frequently more difficult than 'tough, manly' activities, but try telling the boys that- or a movie audience. No matter how many big-budget and/or 'true story' movies are made wherein football is a metaphor for life or boxing is an affirmation of the greatness of the human spirit, even the most fascinating stories about sports like gymnastics or figure skating are strictly television movie-of-the-week fodder. In this atmosphere, you cannot make a cheerleading movie serious. You have to make it a joke. The smart folks behind Bring It On, though, realized that if they could strike a certain balance they could fulfill expectations but also get their point across. So they filled their flick with cute, peppy girls like Kirsten Dunst- always a delight, and well-cast here as a golden girl with a conscience- and snappy, irreverent jokes. They have a PG-13 locker room scene and a bikini carwash. They also have broken bones and high stress- very real factors in the lives of competitive cheerleaders. The squad is co-ed, and we get to know two of these curious, maligned creatures commonly known as male cheerleaders. One of them *is* gay- and an extremely well-adjusted, likable and "non-faggy" one, at that. The other is straight, and as horny as any frat boy in Animal House. We also have a tough girl named Missy transferring from L.A., along with her cute brother Cliff and the news that the Toro squad's cheers are not "100% original", as they had believed. Unfortunately for Kirsten's character Torrance and her Rancho Carne Toros, their ex-captain stole all their prize-winning routines from an East Compton squad (which are perhaps overly rude, even given the circumstances), that will be going to Nationals for the first time. So what's a cheerleading squad to do, except experience various pratfalls on the way to coming up with their own routine and competing and learning something about valuing your own strengths? It's better than it sounds, surprisingly- and refreshingly- enough. As for macho posturing at sports movies, the fact that this was a sueprise hit and 'Sugar and Spice' was not might just be a sign that there are audiences too smart to believe that any movie about female athletes must automatically be completely silly. What a surprising- and refreshing- change.