3 August 2008 | moonspinner55
"Pump, pump, pump it up/Pump that spirit, keep it up!"
Relentlessly malicious mash-up of teen-clique melodrama and exploitation flick, featuring the usual barrage of lollipop-licking Lolitas and well-intentioned but ineffectual adults. New cheerleading coach at a Texas high school quickly learns she's just done a High V into the lion's den after five of the kids in her squad turn the tide against her. These girls, who throw mischievous looks at each other over their shoulders whenever they've been naughty, fight with their peer groups somewhat realistically, but also go after authority figures with such professional élan one might think this TV-movie was written by dirty politicians. Still, the rebellious teens-vs.-desperate teachers theme never quite blooms because the filmmakers are too intent on recycling babysitter/big sister/jailbait clichés. The formula may work here for about 30 minutes, but most viewers should be satisfied by then. Based on a true incident that sprung from a school in Dallas, Tatum O'Neal plays the principal--and mother to the ringleader of the girls--who welcomes the new coach without a word about the other sacrificial lambs who had previously held the position (O'Neal's pained expression becomes a running joke, and she seems to have no more authority over the rest of her duties as she does over this group). B-movies from the days of the drive-ins did this type of thing with a lot more humor. Here, the sneering and backbiting are meant to be the stuff of Herculean drama--Shakespeare with handsprings and herkies. It's barely enough to cover a couple of dull hours on a weeknight, and most of the grown-ups in the cast instantly appear to recognize this.