‘Bring It On’ Writer Remembers Her Father Confronting Roger Ebert Over Negative Review

Ebert was critical of "Bring It On" for cramming R-rated material into a PG-13 teen comedy.
"Bring It On"
"Bring It On"
Universal/courtesy of Everett Collection

Roger Ebert would refer to “Bring It On” as “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of cheerleader movies” in his February 2009 review of the comedy “Fired Up,” but his appreciation for the former 2000 teen comedy came later in life. Ebert originally gave “Bring It On” a two-star review that was mostly negative and criticized the movie for cramming too much R-rated material into a PG-13 teen comedy. While marking the movie’s 20th anniversary this week, “Bring It On” screenwriter Jessica Bendinger remembered how her father reacted to Ebert’s negative review in a surprising manner.

“There’s a story there. I’m from Chicago and Roger Ebert was a neighbor of my dad’s and he would see him at the grocery store,” Bendinger told the AP. “Apparently after that review, my dad confronted Roger in the Carnival Grocery like, ‘Hey, I’m Jessica’s dad and I really don’t like what you wrote.’ People like to quote the ‘Citizen Kane’ line but my dad was [mad].”

As “Bring It On” director Peyton Reed added, “The ‘Citizen Kane’ line came later! Ebert wrote the review and reassessed it. Maybe your dad got through to him.”

The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott gave “Bring it On” a more positive review, to which Bendinger said, “I remember refreshing to see if The New York Times online had posted. The A.O. Scott review came up at some point and I burst into tears that he got it.”

Roger Ebert wrote in his original “Bring It On” review: “I might have enjoyed the movie if it had developed along the lines of ‘Animal House’ or ‘American Pie.’ Instead we get a strange mutant beast, half Nickelodeon movie, half R-rated comedy. It’s like kids with potty-mouth playing grownup.”

While Ebert did note the film has the “seeds of a sharp and observant high school satire,” he added, “I’ll bet anything Jessica Bendinger’s original screenplay was a lot smarter than the dumbed-down PG-13 version we get here. The movie as it now stands is too juvenile and insipid for older teenagers and has way too much language and sex for kids 13 and below.”

Ebert’s review might have been negative, but it didn’t stop “Bring It On” from becoming a teen movie classic with audiences. Read Bendinger’s full interview with the AP here.

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